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Sri Lankan Cabinet minister ends 3-day fast protesting UN war crimes probe

[AP, Saturday, 10 July 2010 13:17 No Comment]

A Sri Lankan Cabinet minister on Saturday ended a three-day fast aimed at forcing the United Nations to abandon an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed during the final months of the country’s civil war.

Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa accepted some coconut water offered to him by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to end his fast in a hut outside the U.N. office and was taken away by an ambulance to a hospital.

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the government "to take urgent action to normalize conditions" around the U.N. office, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Ban believed the protest "is not warranted," he said.

The U.S. and a group of European nations also expressed dismay Friday over an earlier blockade of the U.N. office led by Weerawansa, which trapped its staff for several hours.

Weerawansa had demanded that Ban dissolve the panel he appointed last month to advise him on alleged human rights abuses committed as Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war was ending last year.

The U.N. has said the panel’s work will continue.

Human rights groups have accused government forces of deliberately targeting civilians, hospitals and depriving food and medicine to ethnic Tamils trapped in the war zone. Tamil rebels were also accused of killing civilians and forcibly recruiting children to its army.

The U.N. has estimated that more than 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the last five months of the fighting.

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