NAM drops opposition to UN advisory panel

By our Diplomatic Editor

The 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which accused Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of trying to interfere in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka, is now taking a more conciliatory stand over the proposed appointment of a panel of UN experts to assess the human rights situation in the country.

In a letter to NAM members Friday, Egypt in its capacity as chair, says the secretary-general has clarified that the panel of experts "would only be an advisory mechanism to advise him on modalities, applicable standards and comparative experience relevant to the fulfillment of the joint commitment to a national accountability process in the context of Sri Lanka."'

The letter says that Mr. Ban considers the appointment of such a panel ''within his powers and prerogatives." In this regard, the letter points out, the Secretary-General confirmed that ''the advisory panel is not a commission of enquiry or a fact-finding mission, nor is it intended to visit Sri Lanka without the consent of its government or otherwise intrude upon its sovereignty or jurisdictional independence.

"The Secretary-General has also expressed his commitment ''to continued cooperation with the government of Sri Lanka on this important issue, which he perceives as fundamental to longer term reconciliation within the country.''

Despite protests by the government, it is very likely the Secretary-General will shortly announce the composition and the mandate of the panel. At a news conference last week, Ban said his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar is in consultations with Sri Lanka's UN envoy Palitha Kohona over the appointment of the panel.

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