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Sri Lanka's former president launches comeback bid, denies corruption allegations

  • Former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa attends his election campaign rally in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 17, 2015. The former strongman defeated in this year's presidential election is contesting a parliament seat in the August 17 election. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

    Former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa attends his election campaign rally in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 17, 2015. The former strongman defeated in this year's presidential election is contesting a parliament seat in the August 17 election. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)  (The Associated Press)

  • Supporters of former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa carry his portrait as they cheer for him during an election campaign rally in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 17, 2015. Rajapaksa, the former strongman defeated in this year's presidential election is contesting a parliament seat in the August 17 election. Placard reads, "Our Prime Minister". (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

    Supporters of former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa carry his portrait as they cheer for him during an election campaign rally in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 17, 2015. Rajapaksa, the former strongman defeated in this year's presidential election is contesting a parliament seat in the August 17 election. Placard reads, "Our Prime Minister". (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)  (The Associated Press)

  • Hindu, center in white robe, and Buddhist clergy attend an election campaign rally of former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 17, 2015. Rajapaksa, the former strongman defeated in this year's presidential election is contesting a parliament seat in the August 17 election. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

    Hindu, center in white robe, and Buddhist clergy attend an election campaign rally of former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 17, 2015. Rajapaksa, the former strongman defeated in this year's presidential election is contesting a parliament seat in the August 17 election. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)  (The Associated Press)

Sri Lanka's former president says he has learned from his election defeat and promises a new approach to relations between ethnic communities as he runs for prime minister in next month's elections.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was defeated in January presidential polls, launched his political comeback campaign in the northwestern city of Anuradhapura on Friday.

In a speech, Rajapaksa denied allegations of corruption and misrule and said he was a victim of false propaganda.

Rajapaksa was credited with defeating ethnic minority Tamil separatists in a civil war, but accused of enflaming ethnic divisions while sustaining his ethnic Sinhalese voting bloc.

If Rajapaksa's party secures a majority in Parliament he could become prime minister, a step away from president.