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Cambodia Torn on U.N. Tribunal

March 6, 2000

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Cambodia’s leaders gave conflicting signals to the United Nations today ahead of negotiations to secure U.N. backing for a tribunal to try Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide.

Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized the United Nations during a visit to southeastern Cambodia, saying that three former U.N. secretaries-general should be held accountable for the Khmer Rouge’s occupation of Cambodia’s seat during the late 1970s and 1980s.

Hun Sen declared that he did not trust U.N. intentions in demanding a U.N.-dominated tribunal and hinted that his bottom line would be that the world body must agree to a Cambodian-led court when U.N. negotiators arrive later this month.

``I do not trust you, because you used to support the Khmer Rouge’s seat while they killed my people,″ Hun Sen said in a speech.

But the speaker of Cambodia’s National Assembly spoke more in favor of a broader U.N. role, saying U.N. concerns over a Cambodian-run court must be seriously considered.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh told reporters in Phnom Penh that he understood the ``reality″ of Hun Sen’s position, but he said that he and his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, hope a compromise can be reached.

``If one day the government sees a possibility to have an international tribunal, I think both His Majesty and I have no objections and would support it fully,″ Ranariddh said.

Hun Sen declared that former secretaries-general Kurt Waldheim, Javier Perez de Cuellar and Boutros Boutros-Ghali should be summoned by a tribunal to explain past U.N. policies toward the Khmer Rouge.

``They must be summoned to answer why they allowed the Khmer Rouge to sit at the U.N.,″ he said.

The Khmer Rouge were driven from power in 1979 by a Vietnamese invasion. China, the United States and most of Western Europe opposed Vietnam’s decade-long occupation _ seen in Cold War terms as an expansion of Soviet influence _ and supported a Khmer Rouge-dominated government-in-exile.

The decision to keep Cambodia’s U.N. seat in the hands of the Khmer Rouge were made, not by U.N. officials, but by the General Assembly, which is comprised of representatives of all U.N. member nations.

Hun Sen has urged the United Nations to take a limited role in judging surviving Khmer Rouge leaders for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians in the late 1970s.

U.N. legal experts have so far balked at the government’s plans, fearing the Cambodian judiciary is too underdeveloped and politicized to properly handle trials judging crimes against humanity.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the United Nations would not comment on issues surrounding the tribunal prior to the expected arrival in Cambodia of a U.N. team.

``However, it is a matter of the record that the initiative for these negotiations came from the Cambodian side. The United Nations remains prepared to negotiate with the government of Cambodia to assist it in developing a trial that is credible and meets international standards,″ Eckhard said.

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