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Sri Lanka dismisses EU trade move

COLOMBO, Jan 1 – Sri Lanka\’s president on Friday dismissed the European Union\’s suspension of preferential trade status to the island, saying his government would resist foreign "strategic interference".

"We will not be held back by threatened economic sanctions or withdrawn trade concessions by those who seek strategic interference in the national affairs of Sri Lanka," President Mahinda Rajapakse said in a New Year message.

The statement was a clear reference to the EU decision last month to suspend Sri Lanka\’s preferential trade status on the grounds that it had breached commitments on human rights and good governance.

During the final months of the war with Tamil Tiger rebels in early 2009, the United States and the EU voiced alarm at Sri Lanka\’s treatment of non-combatants and the internment afterwards of up to 280,000 minority Tamils.

The criticism saw Rajapakse turn to China, Iran and Libya for financial and military aid.

"We remain committed to a strengthened and sustained friendship with the countries that supported us in full measure to defeat terrorism and bring peace to our people," he said Friday.

Sri Lanka stands to lose over 150 million dollars annually due to the EU withdrawal of preferential tariffs on Sri Lankan produce, according to trade estimates.

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