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“The suspicious substance will be sent to a laboratory for analysis,” the embassy said in an e-mail to reporters in the capital, Colombo. “Until the results are received and a determination is made that the substance does not pose health or safety risks, the embassy will be closed to the public.”

The embassy did not say whether it feared the powder contained the deadly anthrax bacteria, but anthrax scares have closed several foreign embassies in Sri Lanka since 2001, when the Australian, British, French, Indian and U.S. embassies received letters containing white powder. In each case, the powder turned out to be harmless.

Sri Lanka has been gripped by a 25-year war against separatist ethnic Tamil rebels, who pioneered the tactic of suicide bombings. Lately the army has driven the rebels out of strongholds in the eastern part of the island, leaving them only with control over a small area in the north.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.