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FeaturesNewsSri Lanka rejects call to withdraw army from north

Sri Lanka rejects call to withdraw army from north

Sri Lanka’s president has rejected a call by Indian legislators to withdraw soldiers from the island’s former war zone in the north where minority Tamils are concentrated, his spokesman said Sunday.  President Mahinda Rajapakse told a delegation of visiting Indian lawmakers that troops could not be pulled out despite the end of the decades-long Tamil separatist war in 2009.

“The president explained that there are troops elsewhere in the country as well,” spokesman Bandula Jayasekera told AFP. “They are not only in the (Tamil-dominated) north.”

The visiting delegation was the first team of Indian MPs to visit the island since Sri Lankan forces crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels, ending an ethnic conflict which had claimed up to 100,000 lives.

Indian opposition leader Sushma Swaraj and the cross-party delegation met with Rajapakse on Saturday.

Among the visiting MPs were representatives from Tamil Nadu state, whose 60 million population share close cultural and religious links with Sri Lanka’s Tamils.

Sri Lankan forces have a strong presence across the north, which was badly damaged during decades of fighting.

Tamil politicians there have demanded political autonomy to address long-standing grievances of discrimination and oppression by Sinhalese-dominated governments.

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