Sri Lanka's top general resigns amid speculation

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 9:47 AM

Sri Lanka's top general, who led the battle to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels and ended the island's 30-year civil war, resigned from his post Thursday but declined to discuss his future plans.

Gen. Sarath Fonseka's resignation comes amid growing media reports that he is planning to contest the next presidential election as an opposition candidate, challenging incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Fonseka, 59, said he tendered his resignation Thursday and would retire at the end of the month.

After performing religious rituals at a Buddhist temple near Colombo, Fonseka spoke to the reporters and said he had served in the army past the normal retirement age.

He neither confirmed or denied the media reports about his entering politics.

"Yes, I know my name is mentioned everywhere," he said. "But, the authenticity regarding those reports should be verified from the people who wrote them."

"I am still a military officer. I will not make a comment until I remove the uniform."

As army commander Fonseka masterminded the battle against the Tamil rebels. Soon after the war's end in May, he was promoted to chief of defense staff, a largely ceremonial post.

The government announced last month that it would call early elections for president and parliament, aiming to take advantage of its popularity after crushing the rebels. Dates have not been set.

Opposition parties early this month formed an alliance to contest the elections, saying their main aim is to scrap the powerful presidency and increase the say of parliament under a prime minister.