Sri Lanka warns Western sanctions could worsen internal conflict

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Sri Lanka called on Western powers Thursday to be wary of imposing sanctions for its alleged human rights violations, warning that the action could worsen the island’s long-running ethnic conflict. The United States and the European Union have withheld various aid programs and are debating whether to withdraw special trade benefits from Sri Lanka amid concerns the human rights situation has deteriorated since the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tamil Tigers in January.

“It really is necessary to have sympathy for and understanding of the problems of a developing country that is grappling with terrorism,” Sri Lanka’s minister of international trade G.L. Peiris said in Washington.

“And to cut off resources, to threaten to withdraw trade benefits, GSP (General System of Preference) and so on — all of that is unhelpful because that will only mean the dissemination of poverty, deprivation and adversity,” he told AFP.

Peiris said under such sanctions and other pressures on “a democratic government pitted against terrorism, you can’t possibly prevail.”

Peiris was in Washington for talks with US officials and to woo US investors to set up shop in Sri Lanka’s