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Cambodian Premier Reports Progress

July 3, 2002

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Prime Minister Hun Sen reported progress Tuesday on efforts to revive negotiations with the United Nations on a tribunal to try surviving Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity.

``We are working on the task in quite an appropriate atmosphere,″ he said, without elaborating. ``And moves are progressing very well.″

His comments were another indication that behind-the-scenes talks are under way to re-engage the United Nations in an internationally assisted tribunal.

Talks to finalize a U.N.-assisted trial broke down in February when the United Nations decided a joint tribunal with Cambodia’s judicial system would not ensure justice.

At the time, U.N. officials cited the Cambodian government’s domination over the proceedings, which they feared would reduce the world body’s role to that of a mere provider of technical assistance.

Human rights groups and legal experts consider Cambodia’s judicial system too corrupt and vulnerable to political pressure to ensure justice.

On Tuesday, Hun Sen said Cambodian law on setting up the tribunal can be amended, if necessary, to accommodate U.N. needs.

``What we want to achieve is a compromise to allow the tribunal proceedings to take off,″ he said. ``The most important thing is that a way must be found to prosecute Khmer Rouge leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.″

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975-79 and are blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million Cambodians from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

Leader Pol Pot died in 1998 but many of his top lieutenants have lived freely in Cambodia after making deals to surrender to Hun Sen’s government.

Two men, not from the top level of the leadership, who have been in prison for more than three years are the only suspects in detention.

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