Commonwealth leaders end difficult Sri Lanka summit

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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrives for the final day of the summit in Colombo, 17 NovemberImage source, Getty Images
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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected British concerns

Leaders of Commonwealth nations have issued a final statement at the end of a summit making no mention of alleged human rights abuses by host Sri Lanka.

The communique instead restated the leaders' commitment to promote "core values" of the Commonwealth, including democracy and human rights.

Sri Lanka's president has defended his record, saying the country needed more time to heal the wounds of civil war.

The treatment of Tamils at the end of the 2009 war overshadowed the summit.

In May 2009 Sri Lanka's army defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers after almost 30 years of brutal and bloody civil war.

The spotlight has fallen on the final phase of that war as civilians were hemmed into a thin strip of land on the north-eastern coast - both sides are accused of atrocities here.

The UN says as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed.

The Sri Lankan government has vehemently denied all such accusations

'It will take time'

The 50 Commonwealth countries represented at the meeting focused their talks on development issues, under the title Growth with Equity.

They agreed that eradicating poverty was the greatest challenge facing the world.

The Commonwealth leaders also agreed that climate change continues to be what they called "a major challenge for all countries, posing a grave threat to some".

However, the closing communique, which concluded the three-day meeting in Colombo, did not mention that the leaders of India, Mauritius and Canada boycotted the summit.

It also did not refer to the call made by British Prime Minister David Cameron for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes.

Mr Cameron said on Saturday that if an investigation was not completed by March, he would use the UK's "position on the UN Human Rights Council to work with the UN Human Rights Commission and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry".

At a closing news conference, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa said his country would not bow to pressure.

"The process has already been started. So it will take time. This I not a thing that you can start today and finish it tomorrow. The war was going on for 30 years."

Sri Lankan pro-government commentators have pointed to alleged abuses under British colonial rule to suggest the UK has no moral right to criticise Sri Lanka.

Malta has been chosen to host the next summit in 2015.

The BBC's James Robbins in Colombo says it is regarded as a safe choice, tried and tested when it staged the event in 2005.

The leaders must be hoping to avoid any repeat of the bruising disagreements within the club over the fitness of Sri Lanka as host, our correspondent says.