Asia Crisis

UN's Ban closing S.Lanka office, recalling envoy

(Adds details, background)

UNITED NATIONS, July 8 (Reuters) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he was recalling the top U.N. official in Sri Lanka and closing a U.N. office in Colombo because of anti-U.N. protests there led by a government minister.

Ban said it was unacceptable that Sri Lankan authorities had failed to prevent the disruption of work by U.N. staff in the country's capital.

Sri Lanka has objected to Ban's June 22 appointment of a three-member panel to advise him if war crimes were committed at the end of the country's 25-year war with the Tamil Tiger separatists, which government troops won in May 2009.

Protests outside the U.N. office in Colombo have been led by Construction Minister Wimal Weerawansa, a nationalist ally of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. On Thursday, Weerawansa launched a hunger strike on the third day of the protest.

Ban "finds it unacceptable that the Sri Lankan authorities have failed to prevent the disruption of the normal functioning of the United Nations offices in Colombo as a result of unruly protests organized and led by a cabinet minister of the government," according to a statement read by U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

Ban was recalling the U.N. resident coordinator in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, to New York for consultations and decided that the U.N. Development Program regional center in Colombo, the principal U.N. office there, would be closed, Haq said.

He said Ban had made clear that the panel he had appointed was "advisory and not adversarial." (Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Doina Chiacu)