By Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka on Friday rejected a U.N. report that more than 70,000 civilians were unaccounted for when its war with Tamil Tiger rebels ended in 2009, calling its findings "erroneous and replete with conjecture and bias".
Released on November 14, the report said the United Nations failed to call proper attention to the plight of hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan civilians during the bloody final stage of the three-decade war.
The report cited an earlier estimate of 40,000 civilians killed in crossfire between government and rebel forces after they were trapped on a sliver of coastline, and cited credible information that over 70,000 remained "unaccounted for".
A Sri Lankan foreign ministry statement said "allegations directed at the government ... are regrettably unsubstantiated, erroneous and replete with conjecture and bias".
The U.N. report reinvigorated calls from human rights groups and expatriate ethnic Tamils for an international investigation into suspected war crimes towards the end of the conflict with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Sri Lanka's government has repeatedly rejected allegations that it committed war crimes and also rejected suggestions in the report that it had intimidated U.N. officials.
The war ended with the LTTE's defeat in May 2009.
The earlier U.N. report by a three-member panel headed by former Indonesia Prosecutor General Marzuke Darusman was also dismissed by the government of the Indian Ocean island state.
"This (new) report seems to seek to endorse the baseless and discredited allegations in the Darusman Report, of an exaggerated civilian casualty figure during the last stages of the terrorist conflict, which has not been agreed upon even among the senior U.N. officials at the time, because of the speculative nature of the information which could not be verified," the foreign ministry statement said.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has urged Colombo to implement the recommendations of its own official domestic investigation calling for the prosecution of soldiers suspected of misconduct as the war with Tamil rebels wound down.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez)
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