Sri Lanka minister on hunger strike (Lead)

July 8th, 2010 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, July 8 (DPA) A Sri Lanka cabinet minister and other protestors went on indefinite hunger strike Thursday outside the UN offices in Sri Lanka to protest an enquiry into alleged war crimes.
Construction and Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa opposed a three-member panel appointed by the UN to investigate the alleged killing of civilians by government troops during the civil war.

“I will carry on the fast until the UN meets our demand of withdrawing the panel,” said Weerawansa, who also leads the National Freedom Front party, a member of the ruling coalition.

The panel was appointed two weeks ago to advise UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on how to make the Sri Lankan government accountable for its actions during the final stages of the 26-year civil war against separatist Tamil rebels that ended in May last year.

The UN office was operating with a skeleton staff Thursday as most staffers were told to keep away from work due to fears that the protests may turn violent.

The protestors Tuesday clashed with police and prevented the UN staffers from leaving their offices for several hours.

The UN estimates that more than 7,500 civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict. The government has denied allegations that civilians were deliberately killed.

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