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British defence secretary's Lanka visit cancelled

world Updated: Dec 17, 2010 21:41 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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British defence secretary, Liam Fox’s visit to Sri Lanka for a lecture over the weekend was cancelled on Friday amid new Wikileaks revelations about the Lankan government’s alleged complicity in allowing a paramilitary groups a free run during the final stage of the civil war.

Fox was slated to deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture. The Guardian newspaper quoted a spokesperson for the defence secretary as saying: "Dr Fox has postponed his private visit to Sri Lanka due to an extension to his scheduled official visit to the Gulf. He intends to carry out an official visit to Sri Lanka next year, during which he proposes to fulfill the speaking engagement that he had planned."

The postponing also comes within weeks of the cancellation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Oxford Union lecture in fear of protests by the Tamil diaspora. Fox and Rajapaksa had a one-on-one meeting during the latter’s visit.

The Guardian newspaper said the cancellation was the result of Fox’s difference of opinion with foreign secretary, William Hague, "who feared that he would upset Britain's carefully balanced approach to Colombo.’’

The UK has been pressing for an international probe into allegations of war crimes during the end of the civil war against Tamil separatist rebels.

On its part, the Lankan government said on Friday it was not opposed Fox’s visit. The Ministry of External Affairs added that though Fox was scheduled to come here on a private invitation, all arrangements were made to provide the necessary protocol assistance and facilitation during his visit.