* 'Excesses in every war'-Defence secretary Rajapaksa
* Sri Lanka will implement war-crime probe recommendations
By Ranga Sirilal
COLOMBO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's military will act against any soldiers who may have committed war crimes or other excesses in the last months of its 25-year civil war, the island nation's influential defence secretary said on Thursday.
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa's comments come as President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his elder brother, prepares to make public next month the findings of a commission that probed the end of the separatist war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which Sri Lanka won in May 2009.
Sri Lanka is facing Western calls for an external investigation. But the United States, India and other countries have said credible action based on the findings of the local inquiry, along with political concessions to minorities including Tamils, would obviate the need for an outside probe.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the decorated veteran infantry officer who engineered the final campaign to destroy the LTTE, said the government would act on the findings of the local panel, the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
"If, in future, any substantial evidence is provided on crimes committed by its personnel, the Sri Lankan military will not hesitate to take appropriate action," Rajapaksa said in an address at a post-war reconciliation conference.
A U.N.-sponsored panel has said it has found "credible evidence" that the military killed thousands of civilians in the last months of Sri Lanka's war in 2009 and that both sides committed atrocities.
Sri Lanka says the report regurgitates charges fabricated by the Tamil Tigers' overseas propaganda network, and that its soldiers acted in accordance with international law. It demanded its sovereign right to investigate itself first, via the LLRC.
'EXCESSES IN EVERY WAR'
Rajapaksa, arguably the most ardent and outspoken defender of Sri Lanka's military, said that its rapid expansion to finish off the war meant that a handful of undisciplined recruits could have joined the forces and committed crimes.
"It is possible that a few individuals who lacked the capacity to withstand the pressures of warfare with the required composure may have been recruited," he said.
"There have been unfortunate examples of excesses by individuals in each and every war that has been fought."
Sri Lanka has consistently maintained its soldiers did not kill any civilians intentionally, and points to the fact troops rescued nearly 300,000 held by the Tigers as human shields. It rejects civilian death tallies in the thousands as inflated.
Since at least 6,000 soldiers died in the 34-month campaign, "it should be evident the number of LTTE casualties should be comparable or higher."
"It is almost as if those who make allegations about the deaths in battle are under the impression that the Sri Lankan military was fighting phantoms," Rajapaksa said.
A government census, by Tamil civil servants, is in the process of being finalised to determine exactly how many people were in the former war zone, and what became of them. It will be possible then to name those who died and how, Rajapaksa said.
(Writing by Bryson Hull; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)