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Sri Lanka

Hunger-striking Lanka minister undeterred by UN office closure

Reuters

A Sri Lankan minister vowed to press on with his anti-UN hunger strike Friday, despite UN chief Ban Ki-moon's decision to recall his top envoy in Colombo and close the UN’s besieged offices

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Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa began his "death fast" on Thursday in protest at a UN probe into allegations of war crimes during the final stages of Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war.

Demonstrators have held protests outside the UN compound in Colombo for the last four days, breaking through the barricades at one point and prompting Ban on Thursday to recall his main representative in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, and close the offices.

"How far the government wants to take this confrontation with the United Nations is to be seen," says correspondent Amal Jayasinghe. "As we speak, it doesn't look like the minister has been able to muster that much support. He has a few dozen supporters, but he has not really caught the imagination of the vast majority of people."

Amal Jayasinghe, Colombo

A senior member of Weerawansa's National Freedom Front party, Mohamed Musamil, said the demonstrators would march to the Russian embassy Friday to try to enlist Moscow's support in having the probe squashed.

Russia's Foreign Ministry had criticised Ban for not conferring with the UN Security Council or the General Assembly before convening a panel to look into reports of abuses by government troops in the final months of the conflict with Tamil Tiger separatists.

The United Nations has said that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed towards the end of the civil war that ended in May 2009.

Through his spokesperson, Ban Ki-moon urged Sri Lanka to "live up to its responsibilities towards the United Nations as host country". The three-member panel has not been withdrawn.

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