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India toughens stance on Sri Lanka war crimes probe

India promises to push for a "strong" resolution against Sri Lanka in the continuing United Nations Human Rights Council that would demand its neighbour investigate alleged war crimes.

NEW DELHI // India promised yesterday to push for a "strong" resolution against Sri Lanka in the continuing United Nations Human Rights Council that would demand its neighbour investigate alleged war crimes.

The issue split India's ruling coalition and heightened the risk of early elections on Tuesday, when a regional ally quit the government after demanding that India condemn "genocide" against minority Tamils in Sri Lanka's civil war.

India will propose unspecified amendments to a draft resolution being drawn up by the United States, Palaniappan Chidambaram, the finance minister, said before an expected vote on the text at the Geneva-based UNHRC today.

"India's position has always been and remains that the UNHRC should adopt a strong resolution that would send a resolute message to Sri Lanka and goad Sri Lanka to accept an independent and credible investigation," Mr Chidambaram said.

Sri Lanka has denied that its forces committed war crimes during the decades-long conflict with Tamil separatists in the north and east of the island, which ended with an military onslaught in early 2009.

International rights groups estimate that 40,000 civilians died in the final months of fighting.

India, home to millions of Tamils who share links with their counterparts in Sri Lanka, risks a further worsening in relations with Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has resisted any foreign interference.

Sri Lanka yesterday warned pilgrims against travelling to Tamil Nadu, a day after lodging a formal protest with New Delhi over repeated physical attacks against visiting Sri Lankans.

Dozens of Buddhists monks demonstrated outside the Indian embassy in Colombo for a second straight day yesterday. India has postponed scheduled defence cooperation talks this month, officials said.

In another move likely to deepen the discord, Mr Chidambaram said the government was consulting other parties about a parliamentary resolution which would also call on Sri Lanka to investigate the alleged war crimes.

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