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Thursday, January 15, 1998 Published at 17:50 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

EU to fund Cambodian elections
image: [ Opposition leader Sam Rainsy says international pressure is forcing the Cambodian government to be more flexible ]
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy says international pressure is forcing the Cambodian government to be more flexible

The European Union has agreed to provide more than $10 million to Cambodia to ensure the forthcoming elections are conducted properly.

The elections in July are expected to cost at least $21 million, but the Cambodian authorities said that they could only afford to fund about a third of that amount.

Under the agreement the EU will help pay for voter registration and the training of electoral officers.

Guarantees of free and fair elections demanded

The EU is the first international body to agree to help fund the July polls.

Several governments have spoken of their concerns about the likelihood of the elections being free and fair.

They are demanding the return to Cambodia of co-Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh who was violently ousted by the Cambodian leader Hun Sen last year.

One opposition leader did return to Phnom Penh on Thursday. Khmer Nation Party President Sam Rainsy had spent three weeks in Europe and visiting resistance fighters along the Thai border.

He said Hun Sen is having to be more flexible about reaching a settlement with his rivals because of international pressure.

Opposition under threat

However, a group of nearly 60 self-exiled officials from Prince Ranariddh's party cancelled their plans to return to Cambodia earlier this week, saying they had serious concern for their safety.

They cited a number of recent disturbing events including the government's announcement last week that it would shut down six opposition newspapers which it has accused of defamation and endangering national security.

However, during his meeting with the visiting EU delegation co-Premier Hun Sen said that the suspension order would be lifted in a spirit of national reconciliation and in the hope that it would promote an atmosphere of democracy and peace.

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