Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti accused of abuse

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov 2 (Reuters) More than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers have been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse in Haiti and will be sent home tomorrow, the United Nations said, in the latest sexual abuse scandal involving UN peacekeeping missions.

UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said today 108 of Sri Lanka's 950 soldiers in Haiti were being sent home on disciplinary grounds.

''The United Nations and the Sri Lankan government deeply regret any sexual exploitation and abuse that has occurred,'' Montas told reporters, adding that UN authorities were working to assist the victims.

Asked about the specific allegations against the peacekeepers, Montas said they involved ''transactional sex.'' ''There is a question of some underage girls,'' she added.

Montas said Sri Lanka would take further action against those accused of abuse. ''They are back under national jurisdiction. So far Sri Lanka has said ... that they are going to be prosecuted in Sri Lanka.'' Over the last few years as peacekeeping missions have expanded, reports of abuse have spread in various African nations, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, despite the UN's declared ''zero-tolerance'' policy.

The United Nations largely ignored sexual exploitation by peacekeepers and other field staff for decades, launching a public crackdown only in recent years after reports of abuse surfaced in the Congo.

A 2005 UN report said soldiers should be punished for any sexual abuse, their pay docked and a fund set up to assist any women and girls they impregnated. But member nations have not agreed.

Reuters PBB GC0347

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