Page last updated at 17:44 GMT, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Tamil group backs former general

In this picture taken on July 15, 2009, Sri Lanka"s new Chief of Defence Staff, General Sarath Fonseka assumes office

A key Sri Lankan Tamil political group has said that it will support former army chief Sarath Fonseka in forthcoming presidential elections.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said it could not back incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa because of alleged human rights abuses by the government.

The TNA, an alliance of ethnic Tamil parties, also said Mr Rajapaksa had not secured national reconciliation.

Some 20 candidates are contesting the elections to be held on 26 January.

TNA leader Sambanthan said Sarath Fonseka had given "satisfactory" assurances about finding a political resolution to Sri Lanka's ethnic question.

He said the former army chief had promised to consider Tamil demands for a meaningful devolution of power to the provinces.

"The Tamil people have been itching for a change of regime and the Tamil National Alliance decision is reflective of that desire," Mr Sambanthan told BBC Tamil.

Sarath Fonseka is at odds with the government over who should take credit for the army's final victory over Tamil Tiger rebels last May.

Earlier this week the former general said that if he became president all militants still held in detention would either be charged or freed within a month, and the state of emergency would be lifted.

The government insists it is too early to terminate emergency regulations, arguing that the threat posed by Tamil rebels is still active.

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Yahoo! via Wap UN expert cites video in call for Sri Lankan probe - 1 hr ago
Telegraph Video of Sri Lankan soldiers executing naked Tamils 'authentic': UN - 9 hrs ago
The Hindu Sarath Fonseka promises believable change - 9 hrs ago
Reuters India Sri Lanka general guns for economy in presidential run - 18 hrs ago
The Independent Tamils throw weight behind general who crushed them - 27 hrs ago

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