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Saturday, February 21, 1998 Published at 13:49 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Cambodia's Prince Ranariddh said to offer cease-fire
image: [ Prince Norodom Ranariddh - reportedly ready for a cease-fire ]
Prince Norodom Ranariddh - reportedly ready for a cease-fire

The deposed joint Prime Minister of Cambodia, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, is reported to have said he is ready to declare a unilateral cease-fire in the fighting between his forces and government troops.

Prince Ranariddh is said to have made the announcement at a meeting in Bangkok with Japanese mediators.

Japan has been trying to broker a solution to Cambodia's political conflict, which erupted soon after Prince Ranariddh was ousted last July in a violent coup by his former coalition partner, co-prime minister Hun Sen.

An aide to Prince Ranariddh, King Vibol, said: "The prince is ready to order the unilateral cease-fire and this proposal has been agreed to by his generals."

"He is ready any time," Vibol said.

Hun Sen has rejected earlier bilateral cease-fire proposals and insisted that Ranariddh's forces lay down their arms first.

[ image: Hun Sen deposed Ranariddh last July]
Hun Sen deposed Ranariddh last July
A halt to the fighting is a key part of a deal paving the way for the Prince's return to Cambodia.

Before his return, however, he is expected to be tried in absentia for security-related crimes arising out of last year's coup, and then pardoned.

He would then be free to campaign in elections, due to be held in July.

Prince Ranariddh - currently in exile - is charged with weapons smuggling, and colluding with the outlawed Khmer Rouge guerrilla force.

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The Cambodian Embassy in the US (official information)

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