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King Offers to Mediate in Cambodia

From Times Wire Services

Calling his country “an island of war,” King Norodom Sihanouk said Sunday that free elections are impossible in Cambodia until there is peace between his son and the rival who deposed him.

The frail monarch, who returned to his homeland last week after six months of medical treatment in China, offered to mediate an accord to end two months of warfare between the forces of coup leader Hun Sen and the king’s son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The fighting started in early July when Hun Sen seized sole power, ousting Ranariddh, his co-premier in a coalition government. Ranariddh has been in exile since shortly before the coup.

The 74-year-old constitutional monarch has made clear his disapproval of Hun Sen’s July 6 ouster of Ranariddh. He said he still regards Ranariddh as legitimate premier and has refused to give his political blessing to Hun Sen’s new government.

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Sihanouk also told reporters he was willing to accept Hun Sen’s invitation to oversee planned elections, but expressed doubts that the voting would be a true expression of the will of the Cambodian people.

“If we continue like we have been doing in the last two months, we cannot have a democratic, free and fair election,” he said,"We will have a guided, arranged election.”

Hun Sen has promised elections for May, the fifth anniversary of a U.N.-organized vote that indirectly brought him to power.

Ranariddh’s supporters were still fighting Sunday along the northern border with Thailand, where they have held out against Hun Sen’s larger forces for more than two weeks at the village of O’Smach.


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