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Sri Lanka ex-president's 'coup bid'

Sri Lanka's new foreign minister has asked police to investigate an alleged attempt by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa to stage a coup to stay in power when results showed he was losing last week's election.

Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera said that Mr Rajapaksa and several other key officials discussed plans to use the military to stop vote counting when it became clear that he was losing the election. He said the attorney general and the military and police chiefs opposed the move.

Mr Samaraweera said the alleged plan "constitutes a very serious offence against the state".

Mr Rajapaksa has denied the allegation.

He was widely credited for leaving office peacefully after last Thursday's election, but the coup allegation has raised doubts about what really took place.

Mr Samaraweera said he had reliable information that Mr Rajapaksa met with then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, foreign minister Gamini Peiris, chief justice Mohan Peiris and provincial politician Udaya Gammanpila early last Friday as election results were being released.

He said they conspired to impose a "state of emergency and planned to continue in office by unlawful and illegal means, with the help of the military".

Mr Samaraweera first made his accusation on Sunday, saying the refusal by the police and army chiefs to co-operate forced Mr Rajapaksa to step down and hand over the presidency to his successor, Maithripala Sirisena.

Mr Rajapaksa denied the allegation in a series of tweets on Tuesday, saying he accepted the outcome long before the final official results were released and has always accepted the people's verdict during his decades-long political career.

Mr Rajapaksa had long been expected to easily win a third term in office. He amassed immense power during his nine-year tenure and was not expected to relinquish power even if he lost.

However, Mr Sirisena, a former friend and health minister in Mr Rajapaksa's cabinet, defected in November and won the election with the support of the opposition and estranged minority groups.

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