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Sri Lanka Rebuffs Call for Human Rights Monitoring Mission


Sri Lanka is defending its decision to reject a call by a top U.N. envoy for an international mission to monitor human rights on the divided island nation. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Speaking in the Indian capital, Sri Lanka's foreign minister rebuffed a call for an international human rights monitoring mission. Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters here that such a group would play into the hands of the rebels, who are fighting the government.

U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Louise Arbour concluded a five-day visit to Sri Lanka on Saturday. On her departure she expressed concern about the government's lack of attention concerning human rights and called for the international mission to gather information about alleged violations by Sri Lanka's military as well as the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The U.S. State Department says the rebel group is a terrorist organization.

Arbour was prevented by the government from visiting the Eastern Province and Killinochchi, the rebels' political headquarters. The foreign minister says it would not have been prudent for her to venture into that territory.

"Killinochchi is where there is absolutely no writ of government getting applied because it has been controlled by [LTTE chief Veluppillai] Pirabhakaran, a terrorist," said Bogollagama. "And if one wants to go and meet Bin Laden, can one permit that?"

After Arbour left the country, four top Sri Lankan activists announced they had quit a panel established by the Human Rights Ministry, contending the government in Colombo is not serious about halting illegal arrests, abductions and killings blamed on police and the military.

Foreign Minister Bogollagama calls the resignations regrettable.

"We would like to see a greater degree of understanding to prevail in terms of discussing issues without taking this type of drastic and unwarranted steps that only jeopardizes and sends the wrong signals," he said.

Fighting in Sri Lanka in the past 35 years has left 60,000 people dead. Violence resumed on a large scale two years ago when a truce mediated by Norway between the ethnic-Tamil rebels and the Sinhalese-dominated government began falling apart.

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