US diplomats heading to SL for talks on civil war

The visit comes ahead of a United Nations human rights council meeting in Geneva.

Colombo: Three American diplomats will travel
to Sri Lanka for talks about alleged killings of civilians by
government troops in their campaign to defeat the Tamil
Tigers, an official and report said on Sunday.

The visit comes ahead of a United Nations human rights
council meeting in Geneva, which starts later this month,
where Washington hopes to move a resolution pressing Sri Lanka
to probe alleged war crimes.

A government source in Colombo, who declined to be named,
said US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South
Asian Affairs, Robert Blake, was expected next week.

"The US is mounting pressure on us this time, but we
should be able to get over the difficulties because we have
strong support from India," the government source said.

A diplomatic source confirmed that Washington was engaging
with Colombo ahead of the Geneva rights council session, which
runs from February 27 to March 23.

The privately-run Sunday Times newspaper said Blake will
be accompanied by Marie Otero, the under secretary for
civilian security, democracy and human rights.

Ambassador at large for global criminal justice, Steven
Rapp, is due tomorrow, reported the paper.

There was no immediate comment from the US embassy or Sri
Lanka`s external affairs ministry about the latest US
initiative to ramp up pressure on Colombo.

Sri Lanka has managed to avoid censure at previous human
rights council meetings thanks to the backing of Russia and
China. India, the island`s closest neighbour, has also backed

Rights groups have said up to 40,000 civilians were killed
in the government`s military campaign to defeat Tamil Tiger
rebels, which they completed in May, 2009.

Sri Lanka denies that a single civilian was killed by its

However, a government-appointed panel, which probed the
reasons behind the failure of a 2002 truce, reported in
December that civilians may have died as a result of military
action and called for an independent investigation.

The UN has estimated that up to 100,000 people were killed
in Sri Lanka`s bloody ethnic war between 1972 and 2009.


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