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September 21, 2017

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Sri Lanka claims moral victory from war crimes vote

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka tried to claim a moral victory Friday and insisted it would push on with reconciliation efforts after being censured by the U.N.'s top rights body for failing to bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

The U.S.-initiated resolution was carried at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Thursday with 23 votes in favor and 12 against. Sri Lankan officials said the fact that another 12 nations abstained meant that a majority of the 47-member council did not support the censure move.

"Those 24 countries who refused to endorse the U.S. resolution have sent a very clear and emphatic message rejecting imposition of external solutions on Sri Lanka," Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lanka's top envoy in Geneva, told AFP by telephone.

Sri Lanka's state-run Daily News reported Thursday's U.N. vote under the headline: "Majority against America." The paper also called the UNHRC vote a "moral victory" for Colombo.

The privately owned daily, The Island, accused the United States of trying to bring about regime change in Colombo by proposing the war crimes probe.

"The resolution has all the trappings of an accelerated program to effect a regime change in this country where the opposition has failed to challenge the government," the paper said.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse, who rejected the U.N. call for an investigation against his country, told AFP Thursday that he was pleased that neighboring India, which voted for a similar resolution last year, decided to abstain this time round.

"I think it is encouraging that India did not vote against us," he said shortly after the results of the vote were announced.

"We reject this (resolution). This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help. But I am not discouraged. We will continue with the reconciliation process I have started."

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