King Voices Optimism as He Leaves for China

Heavy gray skies and a drizzling rain didn’t dampen spirits at King Norodom Sihanouk’s de­parture ceremony Saturday, as the monarch bade farewell to diplomats and political party members.

The 76-year-old King reassured all sides that his leaving was “just for a check-up” and that key agreements worked out over the previous two days between likely coalition partners Funcin­pec and the CPP would endure.

“They can argue no more, there is no way to have a dispute because we went into details of all aspects of solving our problems,” the King told diplomats beneath Pochentong Airport’s concrete canopy.

Top officials from all parties turned out, including Funcinpec’s president, Prince Norodom Ran­a­riddh, and the CPP’s top three, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin.

“It’s a great success,” the King told Assembly members as he made his way toward the waiting Royal Air Cambodge flight. “A major crisis has been solved, the deadlock is finished.”

The ailing King, who presided over a two-day summit that ap­pears to have ended more than three months of political deadlock since July’s elections, has said he would remain in Beijing for six weeks for medical tests.

But he told diplomats and par­ty officials Friday that he would return sooner “if I am needed.”

The King made two trips up and down the red carpet, spoke to diplomats en masse and individually to top government officials before walking beneath umbrellas to his flight. Top officials and their wives joined Queen Norodom Monineath and the King in the procession.

Sam Rainsy, president of the self-named party likely to remain in sole opposition in parliament, was in Paris on Friday night and did not attend.

Other officials from parties that did not gain seats in July’s election, including Son Soubert, First Prime Minister Ung Huot and former Funcinpec parliamentarian Om Radsady, also joined the cer­emony.

Phnom Penh’s first deputy governor, Chea Sophara, expressed pleasure at the tight security, which was evident on the capital’s streets. He said successful recent crackdowns on kidnapping and unlicensed weapons was a good omen for the summit of Thurs­day and Friday.


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