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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 08:33 GMT
Sri Lanka to probe UN sex claims
Sri Lanka peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Sri Lankan has sent its first full contingent to Haiti
Sri Lanka has promised to look into allegations that 108 of its UN peacekeepers in Haiti paid for sex, in some cases with underage girls.

The men are being sent home after being accused of sexual misconduct and abuse.

Officials say the law will take its course once the soldiers arrive back in Sri Lanka, but warn that little tangible evidence has been produced.

In the past, UN peacekeepers have been involved in a series of sex scandals, including this year in Ivory Coast.

'Zero tolerance'

Sri Lanka has sent four senior officers, including a female brigadier, to Haiti to investigate.

The United Nations and the Sri Lankan government deeply regret any sexual exploitation and abuse that has occurred.
Michelle Montas
UN spokesman

Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretary, Dr Palitha Kohona, said the allegations against the soldiers were a blight on what he described as the country's stunningly good record in United Nations peacekeeping.

He added though that little tangible evidence had been provided by the United Nations, which might make it difficult to bring them before a court.

The UN mission in Haiti has requested an immediate investigation by the organisation's internal watchdog.

The UN has a "zero tolerance" policy on peacekeepers visiting prostitutes, regardless of local laws.

Spokeswoman Michele Montas said: "The United Nations and the Sri Lankan government deeply regret any sexual exploitation and abuse that has occurred.

"The [soldiers] are back under national jurisdiction. So far Sri Lanka has said... that they are going to be prosecuted in Sri Lanka."

Earlier this year more than 700 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast were suspended and in recent years, peacekeepers in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also been accused of sexual exploitation.

Member states are supplying about 100,000 troops to peacekeeping operations worldwide.

The 950-strong peacekeeping operation in Haiti is the first to which Sri Lanka has sent a full contingent of troops, although some officers have joined earlier missions.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Sri Lankan troops patrolling the streets of Haiti



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