Sri Lanka angry with Norway

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Norwegian cabinet minister Erik Solheim has drawn the fury of Sri Lankans on both sides of the political spectrum, first over his attempts to broker peace between the Tamils and the Sri Lankan government, and now over his call for a probe into possible war crimes committed by government soldiers. Norway’s ambassador to Sri Lanka risks being kicked out of the country.

Solheim, a former UN envoy to Sri Lanka, last spring was called a “terrorist,” along with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Minister David Miliband, for their roles in the bloody civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist group LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers.

Solheim was considered too friendly towards the Tamils. Solheim had managed to meet with the Tamils’ leaders and he was popular, for awhile. But then the Tamils also grew skeptical of Solheim, not least when he urged them to lay down their arms.

Now, Aftenposten.no has reported, Solheim wants the United Nations to investigate Sri Lanka’s government for possible war crimes against the Tamils. His call for a probe came after release of a video, denounced as a falsification by the Sri Lankan government, that shows naked prisoners of the recent civil war being abused and executed, allegedly by Sri Lankan soldiers.”There are incredibly many people who have been killed or disappeared in recent years, with no form of justice,” Solheim told Aftenposten. “And there’s overwhelming evidence that structures within the state apparatus are behind many of these killings.”

The UN has since called for a probe into whether the video is genuine.

That’s sparked the recent fury, against Solheim and Norway. Solheim, currently campaigning hard in the Norwegian government’s re-election campaign, is the target of a vicious e-mail campaign (“Views and News” has also received anti-Solheim e-mail) and even the Sri Lankan government’s own military web site has ridiculed Solheim. The Sri Lankan government issued a statement over the weekend calling Solheim’s remarks “unacceptable.”

It’s expected that Norway’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Tore Hattrem, will be called in for a rebuke and possible expulsion order this week, reports newspaper Aftenposten .