The United Nations has turned down a request from Sri Lanka to send observers to monitor the country's presidential election later this month because of lack of time, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.
Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa is standing against 21 challengers in the Jan. 26 vote, the first since the government crushed a 25-year rebellion by Tamil Tiger separatists in May.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Sri Lanka's election commissioner and government had asked the world body to consider observing the election.
"In light of the limited lead time available" and because U.N. election observation requires a mandate from the General Assembly or Security Council, "the U.N. informed the commissioner and the government of Sri Lanka that it could not provide observers," Nesirky said.
The United Nations has not sent observers to monitor an election in any country for at least 10 years, Nesirky said, although it has provided technical assistance for votes in several nations, most recently Afghanistan.