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Sunday, March 22, 1998 Published at 18:14 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Ranariddh pardon 'important first step'
image: [ Prince Ranariddh fears for his safety on his return to Cambodia ]
Prince Ranariddh fears for his safety on his return to Cambodia

The former Cambodian Prime Minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, has given a guarded response to the pardon granted to him by his father, King Sihanouk.

Cambodian politician Sam Rainsy: "It is a major step on the way to free and fair elections." (1' 03")
A senior aide to the prince said it was an important first step, but while it opened the door for his return, a number of issues remained outstanding.

The BBC Correspondent in Phnom Penh says problems remain over Prince Ranariddh's safety when he returns to Cambodia - he is certain to require assurances that his safety will be guaranteed.

The Prince and his troops must cut all ties with members of the Khmer Rouge, with whom they have been fighting government forces in the north and west.

They will be reintegrated back into the government armed forces.

The Cambodian government will insist that the troops give up areas under their control, or the prince could find himself excluded from elections for violating a critical article of the law on political parties.

The fate of Prince Ranariddh's co-defendents, including his top military commander, General Nhek Bun Chhay is uncertain.

The King's amnesty applies to two criminal convictions from a military court earlier this month, as well as a court order compelling Prince Ranariddh to pay more than $50m in damages.

The pardon for Prince Ranariddh, after his conviction on charges of plotting a coup and colluding with Khmer Rouge guerrillas, is a key element of a Japanese peace plan to allow him to return to Cambodia for elections in July.

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