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UK defence secretary cancels Lanka trip over war crimes complicity

December 17, 2010 14:26 IST
Suggestions surfacing in United States diplomatic cables leaked by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks that the Sri Lanka government precipitated in war crimes against the minority Tamil population at the height of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has prompted British Defence Secretary Liam Fox to abandon plans for a private visit to the island nation.

Fox was forced to abandon the visit to Sri Lanka this weekend after a row with William Hague, who feared that he would upset Britain's carefully balanced approach to Colombo.

According to the BBC, the Labour party accused the government of adopting a "chaotic" approach to diplomacy when Fox announced that he would instead make an official visit to the country in the New Year.

Fox's decision came after talks with Hague, the foreign secretary, and a warning by the British Tamils Forum that his trip would send mixed messages to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is facing strong international pressure for an investigation into allegations that Sri Lanka forces committed war crimes.

Britain's ministry of defence blamed the delay on the need for Fox to extend a visit to the Gulf. A spokesman for the defence secretary said, "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."
Source: ANI