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Friday, November 13, 1998 Published at 19:47 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Pardons break Cambodian political deadlock

The agreement was made at a meeting between the king (right), Hun Sen (left) and Prince Ranariddh (second left)

Cambodia's two leading political parties have agreed to form a coalition government and resolve a political crisis that resulted from inconclusive parliamentary elections last July.

In a move to break the impasse, acting Prime Minister Hun Sen has agreed to royal pardons for five prominent opposition political figures convicted of security crimes.

Ahmed Yaya, spokesman for the prince's party, doubts the coalition will work
King Norodom Sihanouk said the deal would allow the formation of a government between Hun Sen and his leadership rival, Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The two rivals served as co-prime ministers until Hun Sen ousted the prince, King Sihanouk's son, in a thinly disguised coup d'etat last year last year.

The King added that other differences between the two men remained to be resolved, and that the new coalition would be formed "step by step".

King's relatives pardoned

[ image: Prince Ranariddh accused Hun Sen of electoral fraud]
Prince Ranariddh accused Hun Sen of electoral fraud
Those being pardoned include two other relatives of the King, Prince Norodom Chakrapong and Prince Norodom Sirivudh, convicted in their absence of crimes against the Cambodian government.

Pardons will also be granted to two army generals who sided with Prince Ranariddh when he was driven from power by Hun Sen.

Negotiations which began late on Thursday at the royal palace in Phnom Penh are not yet over, but the major elements of an eventual power-sharing deal are in place.

The division of cabinet posts between Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the prince's royalist Funcinpec party has yet to be finalised. The question of who should occupy the important post of president of the national assembly must also be settled.

Election accusations

Prince Ranariddh has accused the CPP of fraud and intimidation during the July parliamentary election, which it won, but with insufficient seats to form a government by itself.

Hun Sen invited the prince's party to participate in a coalition - something which Prince Ranariddh would not do before Hun Sen addressed the questions of election allegations, and amnesty for the prince's supporters.

The BBC South-east Asia Correspondent Simon Ingram says a rapid resolution of these issues would be a relief to ordinary Cambodians, who feared a return to violent instability after July's elections proved inconclusive.

The international community has made it plain that Cambodia will continue to be ostracised abroad unless it settles its political squabbles.

Foreign aid allocations have been suspended and Cambodia's seat at the UN General Assembly left empty since last year's violence.

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