Sri Lanka under renewed pressure over war crimes

June 4, 2011 (AFP) – The United States said Saturday it remained “deeply concerned” about alleged Sri Lankan war crimes as it distanced itself from a junior US military officer who questioned the credibility of the accusations against the island. The US government, along with other Western nations, rejected an invitation to attend a seminar hosted by Sri Lanka earlier in the week to showcase its success in crushing Tamil separatists by May 2009.

However, the US defence attache in Colombo, Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Smith, attended the seminar as an “observer” and his remarks there were his own “opinion”, the US state department said in a statement received in Colombo.

Sri Lanka hosted the seminar, co-sponsored by its main arms supplier China, to highlight its win over the rebels after decades of ethnic conflict which according to the UN claimed up to 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.

Smith told the seminar that the credibility of rebel surrender claims was in doubt and he appeared to contradict a Western allegation that Sri Lankan troops killed surrendering rebels.

A key charge in a recent UN report accuses Sri Lanka of executing Tiger political leaders who are said to have worked out a surrender deal through Western