New Sri Lankan leader to face challenges with West: analysts

January 25, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s next president will face immediate pressure to investigate war crimes allegations and to mend relations with Western powers which provide key export markets for the island, analysts say. “Any closer alliances with the West, particularly the EU, would necessarily invite greater scrutiny on human rights and accountability for past crimes.”

But Western nations are vital markets for the island’s key exports — clothing, tea and ceramics — and the business community is lobbying for an improvement in the strained relations.

“We need to stop burning bridges and start making friends,” Sunil Wijesinghe, who heads the Japanese-owned Dankotuwa Porcelain company, told AFP.

Last month, the EU announced plans to suspend important tariff concessions to Sri Lanka that facilitate exports to the giant European market.

The suspension followed a year-long European Commission probe that concluded the Sri Lankan government was in breach of commitments on human rights and good governance that come with the preferential trade status.

“The West is the biggest buyer of our exports and now that the war is over, it’s time to tone down our overly aggressive foreign policy and take a more pr