Sri Lankan leader says UN war crimes panel won't be allowed to visit country

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka's president said Tuesday he will not allow a U.N. panel investigating allegations of war crimes to enter the country.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa told foreign journalists that he will not accept any investigation by the United Nations into allegations of abuses by his soldiers and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in the final period of the country's civil war in 2009.

The U.N. human rights chief appointed a three-member panel in June to look into the allegations after a U.S.-sponsored resolution was passed in March.

"We will not allow them into the country," Rajapaksa said. "We are not accepting that (investigation). They have no mandate to do that."

An earlier U.N. report said up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the last months of the quarter-century civil war.

The report accused both sides of serious human rights violations. It said the government was suspected of deliberately shelling civilians and hospitals and blocking food and medicine for civilians trapped in the war zone. The rebels were accused of recruiting child soldiers and holding civilians as human shields and firing from among them.

After resisting calls for an internal investigation for years, the government appointed a three-member commission to inquire into cases of war disappearances. It recently added three foreign advisers to increase the panel's credibility.

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