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US official arrives in Sri Lanka to push reconciliation

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A top US official arrived in Colombo on Friday to push for reconciliation in Sri Lanka which is under increasing international pressure over rights abuses during its separatist war, diplomats said.

Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, will travel to a former war zone to meet with ethnic minority Tamil leaders as part of her two-day visit, a US embassy spokesman said.

"She will discuss with Sri Lankan (government) officials on the need to do more to ensure reconciliation and accountability," the spokesman said.

Biswal is the second US envoy to travel to Sri Lanka in recent weeks after war crimes investigator Stephen Rapp caused controversy by visiting a former Sri Lankan battleground earlier this month.

The visits come ahead of a United Nations' review of Colombo's human rights record. A third US-initiated censure motion against Sri Lanka is set to be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Sri Lanka has come under increasing pressure to investigate allegations that troops committed war crimes during the decades-long conflict between troops and Tamil rebels, or face international investigations.

Sri Lanka has consistently denied what the UN calls credible allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed by Sri Lankan troops in the final months of the war that ended in 2009.

Biswal is expected to hold talks with Sri Lanka's foreign minister and other top government officials during her visit.

"The new resolution will be part of the discussions that she will have with Sri Lankan officials," the embassy spokesman said.

The opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which controls the highest level of local government in the former war zone of Jaffna, has said it will send a representative to Geneva for the upcoming UN meeting.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron warned during a Commonwealth summit in Colombo in November that he would use London's position at the UN to press for an independent investigation unless Colombo showed progress in probing its own troops.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140131/us-official-arrives-sri-lanka-push-reconciliation