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Sri Lanka's main Tamil party yesterday demanded an international inquiry after the UN admitted it failed to protect thousands of civilians killed by troops in the final phase of the country's conflict in 2009.

The moderate Tamil National Alliance said the report published by the UN secretary general's office confirmed its longstanding allegations of widespread killing and incarceration of civilians.

"Now that the UN has come (out) with this report we want action," party spokesman M A Sumanthiran told AFP.

"There should be an international inquiry. The government as the main accused party cannot be involved in the investigation."

Sri Lanka has resisted previous calls for an independent probe and instead appointed a domestic commission to recommend measures to prevent the country slipping back into ethnic war.

The report, commissioned by secretary general Ban Ki-moon to look into the UN's own role in Sri Lanka, reinforced claims by international rights groups that up to 40,000 civilians could have been killed by government forces.

The damning review of UN action during the final months of the separatist war in 2009, in which tens of thousands were killed and up to 300,000 people displaced, criticized the UN leadership, the Security Council and UN staff in Sri Lanka.

UN officials were afraid to publicise widespread killings, top UN leaders did not intervene and the 15-member Security Council did not give "clear" orders to protect civilians, said the report.

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