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Cambodia OKs U.N. Rights Office

August 23, 1999

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Cambodia’s government agreed Monday to allow a U.N. human rights office to remain in the capital.

The agreement came after the U.N.’s special envoy on human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, met with Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong to discuss the office, the only one of its kind in Asia. The center’s mandate expires in March next year.

The center, which was an offshoot of the 1991-93 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Cambodia, has often annoyed the government with its frank and critical reporting.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has threatened on several occasions to close it down, most notably in the wake of a coup he staged in 1997, and after violent repression of anti-government demonstrations last year.

``There was an agreement that the office did valuable work and it should continue for some further time,″ Hammarberg told reporters after the meeting Monday. He said details remain to be worked out, but that a memorandum of understanding would be signed ``soon.″

Hor Nam Hong sought to have the center’s term extended for a single year, while the U.N. wanted a two-year extension due to the difficulties of budgeting on a year-by-year basis, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Nary.

Another U.N. mission is due here Tuesday to negotiate the terms of international participation in planned genocide trials for former leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge have been held responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people while the communist group held power in the late 1970s. The group’s former leaders could be charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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