Sri Lanka's presidential candidate vows to protect incumbent from war crimes prosecution

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Sri Lanka's opposition presidential candidate says he does not support an international war crimes prosecution against incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa's government and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels are being investigated by the U.N. Human Rights Council for possible war crimes in the final stage of the country's 25-year civil war in 2009.

Former Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, who is challenging Rajapaksa in the Jan. 8 elections, said Friday he won't support any war crimes charges even if it means his defeat at the polls. The government has refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigation.

According to the United Nations, up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months of fighting.

Both Rajapaksa and Sirisena are members of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority population.