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Cambodians Agree on New Government

November 23, 1998

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Cambodia’s top two political parties sealed a deal Monday that will place Prime Minister-elect Hun Sen in firm control of a coalition government.

Bitter enemies just a few months ago, Hun Sen and coalition partner Prince Norodom Ranariddh joked and laughed as they signed agreements of cooperation and toasted the new government with champagne.

``We must continue in a coalition in the interests of the nation,″ he told reporters. ``Like it or not, we must be together to build the country.″

The two sides were involved in an armed confrontation last year when Hun Sen ousted Ranariddh as his co-prime minister in a violent coup.

After meeting for more than an hour, Hun Sen and Ranariddh signed a joint political platform and a division of Cabinet posts that will give Hun Sen’s party tight control of fiscal and administrative functions.

His party will control the ministries of finance, industry, commerce, planning, agriculture, public works and foreign affairs, according to a list obtained Monday.

Ranariddh’s party will head the ministries of justice, tourism, information, health, rural development and education. The two sides will share the defense and interior ministry portfolios, the list said.

The two parties control a combined 107 seats in the 122-seat National Assembly _ more than the two-thirds majority needed to approve a government.

Hun Sen’s party won a narrow victory in the July parliamentary elections, but controlled less than two-thirds of the seats, causing more than three months of political deadlock.

The deal will make Hun Sen sole prime minister and Ranariddh president of the National Assembly.

A new government is expected to bring back much of the foreign aid and investment that was sharply curtailed after last year’s coup. Cambodia is also expected to reclaim its seat at the U.N. General Assembly, which has been under dispute since the coup.

Lawmakers from the opposition party led by Sam Rainsy who left the country due to security concerns during the unrest that followed the election are to return on Tuesday to participate in parliament.

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