COLOMBO, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The United Nations wants the Sri Lankan government to explain allegations about the deaths of senior Tamil Tiger rebels in the closing stages of the country's civil war, the president's office said on Monday.
Earlier this month a weekend newspaper reported retired General Sarath Fonseka, who is challenging President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a January election, had said government soldiers were ordered to shoot surrendering Tamil Tiger rebels.
Fonseka subsequently said the paper had misquoted him and he denied any such shootings took place.
The statement from President Rajapaksa's office said the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions "has asked the government to provide explanations with regard to the circumstances of the death of three senior LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) cadres and their families at the last stages of military operations to defeat the LTTE in May this year."
The statement said the government was making a careful study of the UN Rapporteurs letter, prior to a formal response.
The Sri Lankan government had earlier denounced the reported comments.
In May, Sri Lanka crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and ended their quarter-century war to create a separate nation for the Tamil ethnic minority on the Indian ocean island nation.
Fonseka and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president's brother, led the government campaign that brought an end to the insurgency, which aimed to create a separate homeland for the island's Tamil minority.
Both sides were accused of human rights violations and atrocities during the long conflict.
Rights groups and Western governments are pressing for some kind of accountability for thousands of civilian deaths in the final phase of the war.
The government has denied charges of deliberately targeting civilians, and said Tiger fighters forcibly kept thousands of unwilling civilians with them in their last redoubts.
Whether Rajapaksa and his brother or Fonseka deserve the main credit for the military victory is an important factor in the presidential campaign. The election is set for Jan. 26. (Editing by Jerry Norton)
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