Sri Lanka Marks End of War Anniversary

Posted May 19th, 2012 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Sri Lanka marked the third anniversary of the military victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels Saturday.

Fighter jets flew over the capital, Colombo, while thousands of troops paraded in the streets flanked by tanks and other weaponry to celebrate the 2009 end to the 26-year civil war.

In an address to the nation, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected international calls to close military bases and withdraw troops from a former war zone in the north. He said reducing the military presence there would be a risk to national security.

Mr. Rajapaksa made the comments hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris that Colombo should demilitarize the former war zone and do more to protect human rights.

Clinton said the United States strongly supports the process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka. Peiris said his country has completed 90 percent of the work connected with resettling those displaced by the civil war.

The Sri Lankan foreign minister also noted “excellent cooperation” between his country and the United States on defense and that the countries are also exploring ways to boost trade and investment.

The United States has backed a United Nations resolution urging Sri Lanka to probe alleged human-rights violations during the final phases of the country's civil war.

But the Sri Lankan government has denied it committed war crimes during the conflict and said it carried out a major humanitarian operation to rescue more than 300,000 people from the “clutches of the rebels.”

The U.N. panel said it found evidence of Sri Lankan troops killing many civilians through widespread and indiscriminate shelling of hospitals and other humanitarian facilities during the period. It also cited allegations of the rebels using civilians as human shields, holding civilians as hostages, and recruiting child soldiers.