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ASEAN halts Cambodia mediation

ASEAN Foreign Ministers Alatas and Chaiyasarn

Coup leader Hun Sen rejects peace plan

July 19, 1997
Web posted at: 12:43 p.m. EDT (1643 GMT)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- Mediators of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) stopped their peace efforts in Cambodia on Saturday after Co-Premier Hun Sen flatly rejected the group's peace plan.

Speaking after almost two hours of talks in Phnom Penh, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said that "at our meeting with Hun Sen, we were given quite a clear indication that (he) believes that ASEAN at this stage should not contribute to finding a solution."

"ASEAN will only assist in trying to contribute if all sides want that. This is why as of this moment, our efforts stop and we will return and report to the ASEAN foreign ministers," Alatas told reporters at the end of the shuttle mission by delegates from Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The ASEAN proposal called for an end to fighting, installing a caretaker government to prepare for new elections, and that Hun Sen share power until the elections took place.

Alatas said both the ousted Co-Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Cambodia's monarch, King Norodom Sihanouk, were in favor of the ASEAN plan.

Hun Sen, who overthrew Ranariddh during street battles in the capital earlier this month, dismissed international mediation efforts on Friday, and told the international community, including ASEAN, not to interfere in Cambodia's internal affairs.

ASEAN, which groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has postponed Cambodia's entry into the group indefinitely in response to Ranariddh's ouster.

Hun Sen

On Saturday, Ranariddh again lashed out at Hun Sen.

"In rejecting ASEAN mediation, I think Hun Sen is now isolating Cambodia by himself," Ranariddh told a news conference in Bangkok. "Now I'm really afraid we will have again a civil war in my country. ... From now on democracy is finished; it is ended in Cambodia."

The United States has launched a separate diplomatic effort to end the crisis. Envoy Steve Solarz is expected to tell Hun Sen that his takeover is considered illegal and intolerable. But observers say the envoy is likely to face a stone wall when he meets Hun Sen in Phnom Penh next week.

Hun Sen's formerly communist Cambodia's People's Party and Ranariddh's royalist FUNCINPEC party shared power in an uneasy coalition government from 1993 until the ouster earlier this month.

Both sides accused each other of trying to win the support of leaders of the notorious Khmer Rouge movement in order to bolster their own political standing.

Since the coup, Hun Sen has reportedly been consolidating power by rounding up and, in some cases, executing opponents.

Some of the leading FUNCINPEC members fled to Thailand, while Ranariddh's forces have been cornered in the jungles of northern Cambodia near the Thai frontier.

Correspondent Tom Mintier and Reuters contributed to this report.

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