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Australia rejects calls to boycott Sri Lanka meet

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Australia has vowed not to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka over allegations of human rights violations, despite mounting calls not to attend.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said it would be counter-productive to skip the summit in the Sri Lankan city of Hambantota in November.

"Any suggestion of a boycott would be counter-productive. It would simply isolate the country and render it defiant of international opinion," he told ABC television late Friday.

"Our challenge is to keep the pressure on to see there are further improvements, especially directed at reconciliation in the north.

"People... in the north, they've told me they have seen former Tamil Tigers -- that is fighters using terrorist means -- are now being rehabilitated, being employed, gainfully employed, being reintegrated into that community."

Earlier this week, former prime minister Malcolm Fraser joined dozens of other prominent Australians in calling for Canberra to boycott the meeting unless there was significant progress on Sri Lanka's human rights record.

"From all the reports that we're getting, there is still continuing human rights violations in Sri Lanka," Fraser said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has voiced similar sentiments, demanding President Mahinda Rajapakse's regime probe its troops over allegations -- denied by Colombo -- that 40,000 civilians were killed in 2009.

After nearly four decades of civil war, Sri Lanka crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.

Backed by India, the United States and European nations, the UN Human Rights Council last month called for an investigation into suspected war crimes including the alleged indiscriminate killing of civilians at the conflict's climax.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130426/australia-rejects-calls-boycott-sri-lanka-meet