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Monday, Aug 11, 2014

Travel

Sri Lanka slams US over travel warning

AFP | Monday, Aug 11, 2014

View from the Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, Nuwara Eliya’s only tea factory turned boutique hotel.

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka accused the United States Monday of creating a "false and alarmist view" after Washington warned of possible violence on the island and said anti-Western sentiment was rising.

The travel warning was issued after an opposition party staged a peaceful protest outside the US embassy in Colombo over Israeli actions in Gaza.

It said there was increased pressure on anyone linked to US projects, warning that "even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence".

Sri Lanka, which is banking on tourists to revive its economy after ending nearly four decades of ethnic war in May 2009, said the claims were misleading.

The warning "regrettably creates a false and alarmist view of the conditions prevalent in Sri Lanka", said the foreign ministry.

Colombo has repeatedly locked horns with Western nations over rights issues, notably allegations its forces killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war between the military and rebels fighting for a Tamil homeland.

Colombo has long denied the charge.

Last week the foreign ministry accused Western diplomats of favouring Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority by attending a meeting in Colombo between envoys and families who lost loved ones in the war.

Pro-government mobs led by Buddhist monks broke up the meeting, attended by Western diplomats, and prompted the US embassy to demand Sri Lanka enforce its own laws on freedom of speech and association.

The US embassy had accused police of supporting the mobs whom it said "behaved threateningly" towards the families from the former northern war zone.

France, Germany, Britain and Switzerland also issued a statement last week backing the US demand for the rule of law.

Critics have recently accused President Mahinda Rajapakse's government of a renewed crackdown on dissent, after it last month banned civil society groups from holding press conferences.

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