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    Sri Lanka ends ban on UN war crimes probe team


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    Sri Lanka ends ban on UN war crimes probe team

    Post  nirvanahue on Sat Dec 18, 2010 8:24 am

    Sri Lanka ends ban on UN war crimes probe team
    Sri Lankan soldiers. File photo Colombo denies that its forces violated international humanitarian law during the final stage of the war
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    Sri Lanka's government says it will now allow a team of UN investigators to visit the island, reversing an earlier refusal to grant visas.

    The three-man panel was appointed in June by the UN secretary general to look into alleged war crimes in the final stage of the government's war with Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.

    Sri Lanka angrily opposed the move and set up its own internal commission.

    Colombo now says the panel may visit and share evidence with its inquiry.

    Sri Lanka consistently denies its forces violated international humanitarian law during the long conflict, maintaining that only the Tamil Tigers did.

    People suggesting otherwise are often labelled as traitors in Sri Lanka.

    The fact that Colombo has changed its mind and will now admit to the country the panel is something of a concession, says the BBC's Charles Haviland, in Sri Lanka.
    'Enemy objectives'

    Announcing the relaxation of the ban, Sri Lanka's foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters a day earlier: that his panel - an Indonesian, and American and a South African - would visit the island.

    The ministry said they would be admitted so that they could make a presentation to Sri Lanka's own domestic commission investigating the war's final years. No date has been set.

    However, our correspondent says it is unlikely that the UN experts will be given free rein to go around making investigations.

    Six months ago the Sri Lankan foreign minister said the members of the UN panel would not be granted visas and described the initiative as "unwarranted interference".

    In July another government minister, Wimal Weerawansa, led a cabinet-backed hunger strike and protest against the panel outside the UN's local compound.

    Our correspondent says that same minister - a maverick, ardently nationalist lawmaker - is still insisting that the panel be "given no space" to visit Sri Lanka.

    The panel's visit would help "accomplish enemy objectives", Mr Weerawansa recently said, urging all Sri Lankan people to protest against their presence in the country.

    The UN estimates that Sri Lanka's conflict killed up to 100,000 people, displaced hundreds of thousands more and held back the island's growth and economic development.

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    Six Nations: England unchanged for Italy clash

    Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 12 February Kick-off: 1430 GMT
    Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, HD channel, Red Button and BBC Sport website from 1400; listen on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text online and on mobiles

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    Italy side best ever - Johnson

    England manager Martin Johnson has kept faith with the same starting XV that beat Wales in their Six Nations opener for Saturday's match at home to Italy.
    The decision means James Haskell is preferred at open-side flanker ahead of specialist number seven Hendre Fourie.
    Fourie displaces Wasps veteran Joe Worsley, who appeared as a replacement in Cardiff, on the bench.
    Northampton's Tom Wood and number eight Nick Easter complete the back row while Mike Tindall retains the captaincy.
    In the backline, Toby Flood has cemented his place as Johnson's first-choice fly-half ahead of World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson, as Shontayne Hape keeps his place at centre.
    Despite an apparent focus on a more expansive game since last year's championship during which his side scored six tries, Johnson insists his priorities remain unchanged.
    "Number one is a win, number two is no serious injuries and number three is a good game," Johnson said.
    "We want to win and from that is how we do it. We're here to win Test matches, let's make no bones about that.
    "We know what they're about. They're a good team and a real challenge."
    Italian captain and number eight Sergio Parisse will lead a physical forward pack, but England are expected to dominate in the backs.

    Northampton team-mates Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood and Ben Foden celebrate in Cardiff
    Bath's Hape will hope to make the most of the opportunity after admitting that he has struggled to recapture the form he showed in the autumn internationals.
    The omission of Lions centre Riki Flutey from the squad means Wilkinson and winger Matt Banahan will offer cover in midfield.
    Although neither's preferred role, Banahan started the autumn international against Samoa in midfield, while Wilkinson played outside Danny Cipriani against Ireland in 2008.
    Louis Deacon, who was shown a yellow card after conceding a penalty deep in England's half in Cardiff, has held off the challenge of 62-cap Simon Shaw in the second row.
    While the selection of Dan Cole at tight-head prop will give him the chance to take on Italy's Martin Castrogiovanni, who occupies the role ahead him at club side Leicester.
    Wood, one of four Saints players in the line-up, impressed on his debut in the 26-19 victory over Wales, and the 24-year-old could pose a selection problem for Johnson once usual captain Lewis Moody returns.
    Moody, an open-side flanker, hopes to make his comeback in England's third match of the competition against France on 26 February - leaving Wood and the more experienced Haskell to vie for the number six shirt.
    Italy have won only twice in the last three Six Nations but led Ireland in the final five minutes of their match in Rome on Saturday.
    A Ronan O'Gara drop-goal snatched a 13-11 victory for the visitors, however, to deny the Azzurri a rare win.
    England side to play Italy:
    Ben Foden (Northampton); Chris Ashton (Northampton), Mike Tindall (Gloucester, capt), Shontayne Hape (Bath), Mark Cueto (Sale); Toby Flood (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester); Andrew Sheridan (Sale), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Dan Cole (Leicester); Louis Deacon (Leicester), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais); Tom Wood (Northampton), James Haskell (Stade Francais), Nick Easter (Harlequins).
    Replacements: Matt Banahan (Bath), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon); Danny Care (Harlequins); Dave Wilson (Bath); Steve Thompson (Leeds); Simon Shaw (Wasps); Hendre Fourie (Leeds)

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