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Sri Lankan leader swears in consensus Cabinet with members of main rival political parties


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan leader presided Friday at the swearing in of 48 ministers in a new Cabinet for a consensus government including members of the two main rival political parties.

It followed an agreement between the parties led by President Sirisena and Prime Minister to govern together for at least two years.

Their aim will be to face together war crimes allegations originating from the decades-long civil war that ended six years ago and to secure enough votes in Parliament to adopt a new constitution with political reforms and power sharing with ethnic minority Tamils.

Sirisena urged the ministers to work as one government despite party differences.

The two parties have been bitter rivals for decades and their working together will be a novelty in Sri Lankan politics.

Sri Lankan troops crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, ending a nearly 26-year civil war in which the rebels fought for an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

According to a United Nations report some 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in just the final months of the war alone, largely due to shelling by the government. Also the state has been accused of using food and medicine as tools of war. The rebels are accused of holding civilians as human shields and recruiting child soldiers.

The U.N human rights body will present a report on war crimes allegations during the war later this month.

The two political parties together will be able to provide a two-third of votes needed in Parliament to adopt a new constitution.

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