Commonwealth meet in Sri Lanka 'accommodates evil': Canada

LONDON (AFP) - Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has condemned the decision to allow Sri Lanka to host the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in November as "accommodating evil".

Mr Baird spoke out after his Commonwealth counterparts in London on Friday agreed to press ahead with the meeting despite strong criticism over Colombo's human rights record.

"We're appalled that Sri Lanka seems poised to host CHOGM and to be chair-in-residence of the Commonwealth for two years," the Canadian minister told The Guardian newspaper late Friday.

"Canada didn't get involved in the Commonwealth to accommodate evil; we came to combat it. We are deeply disappointed that Sri Lanka appears poised to take on this leadership role."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada will boycott the Nov 15-17 meeting unless Sri Lanka investigates suspected war crimes including the alleged indiscriminate killing of civilians by government troops in the climax of the civil war in 2009.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said Sri Lanka had not been on the formal agenda at Friday's talks but said it had been discussed, and there was no opposition to November's meeting being held in that country.

It was a "collective decision", he told a press conference afterwards, adding: "No member of government has indicated remotely that it wishes to change the venue."

Mr Sharma said the Commonwealth was working with President Mahinda Rajapakse's regime to address international concerns.

And he said he believed Colombo subscribed to the principles of human rights, democracy and rule of law laid out in the Commonwealth charter signed by Queen Elizabeth II last month.

"All member states subscribe to the same principles and values equally," he said.

"Interacting with them on many fronts - as I have been doing at all levels - I am fully persuaded that they are sincere in subscribing and following those values."

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