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Sri Lanka cautions against 'sympathy for terrorism'

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday marked the first anniversary of the end of a thee-decade civil war by warning countries not to show sympathy for terrorism and separatism, while international pressure grows over alleged war crimes.

world Updated: Jun 18, 2010 17:29 IST

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday marked the first anniversary of the end of a thee-decade civil war by warning countries not to show sympathy for terrorism and separatism, while international pressure grows over alleged war crimes.

Rajapaksa said in an address to the nation that it was a "grave error of judgment" not to oppose terrorism that targets you but to believe it is good if it does not target you.

He presided over a "Victory Day" celebration in Colombo, one year after government troops defeated the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who fought for a separate state for the Tamil minority.

"The world has so far trod on this wrong path," Rajapaksa said.

"Terrorism remains unvanquished because of this incorrect thinking. I must state that the countries that show sympathy towards terrorism and separatism will be the victims of terrorism. This is the lesson of history."

The LTTE was defeated in May 2009, but the celebrations were postponed due to flooding last month.

Some 80,000 people were killed in the 26-year conflict. Sri Lanka faces growing criticism over alleged abuses, committed by both sides during the last phase of the war, in which 7,000 civilians were killed according to UN figures.

Rights groups accused government troops of shelling civilian areas, while the LTTE was accused of killing fleeing civilians and using them as human shields.

Rajapaksa said on Friday that the offensives were aimed against terrorists and that the army did not shoot at civilians.

The UN plans to set up a panel of experts to look into possible human rights issues. Sri Lanka has appointed a commission to investigate alleged abuses, but refuses to establish an international tribunal.

Some 9,000 soldiers, most of whom participated in the final phase of the military operations in rebel territory in northern Sri Lanka, took part in the parade.

However, General Sarath Fonseka, the army chief who led the military operations, remains in military custody on allegations of conspiracy against the government and fraud.

The ex-army commander, who fell out with Rajapaksa after the end of the war, later entered politics and unsuccessfully contested the presidential elections in January. He later was elected a member of parliament and attends parliamentary sessions while in custody.