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Tamil party calls on new Sri Lankan government to resolve ethnic conflict

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka's main ethnic Tamil political party called on Tuesday for the new government to resolve the longstanding ethnic conflict that led to the country's quarter-century civil war.

The leader of the Tamil National Alliance, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, told Parliament that the failure to resolve the issue has caused many of the nation's ills. It was Parliament's first session since President Maithripala Sirisena was elected Jan. 8.

"The Tamil question needs to be addressed so as to evolve a permanent, reasonable, workable and durable solution within the framework of a united, undivided Sri Lanka," Sampanthan said, adding that it would be in the interest of the whole country.

The Tamil party has called on the ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government to share power under a federal system.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa led the military campaign to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels and after the war never fulfilled a promise to share political power with Tamils in the north and east.

The United Nations has estimated that 80,000 to 100,000 people died in the civil war, but the actual number is believed to be much higher. A U.N report later said up to 40,000 Tamils may have been killed in the final months of the war alone.

The U.N. human rights council is investigating war crime allegations against the government and the rebels.

The Tamil alliance supported Sirisena in the election, which helped him receive a majority of the Tamil votes.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in his speech accepted the necessity to solve the conflict but stressed it will be under a unitary constitution not a federal one.

Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva said that he will support such a model.

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