Party Leaders Leave as Negotiations Begin

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy left Phnom Penh on Tuesday ev­ening for France, where he said he will meet with Funcinpec Pres­ident Prince Norodom Rana­riddh who departed Cambodia on Sun­day, just as talks began be­tween Funcinpec and the CPP on the formation of a new government.

Sam Rainsy told reporters he would stay in France for about 10 days. “I will come back when something important happens in Cambodia,” Sam Rainsy said.

Opposition Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said Sam Rainsy was leaving with his family for a holiday, adding he was not aware of any special meeting between Sam Rainsy and Prince Ranariddh.

“This is a private family holiday trip,” he said Tuesday.

On Sunday, Funcinpec officials said Prince Ranariddh was in the Philippines, meeting parliamentarians there, though they did not disclose when he would return.

A Funcinpec official, who de­clined to be named because of the royalist party’s press blackout, said Tuesday that Prince Rana­riddh would leave for France from the Philippines on Thursday and return to Cambodia by April 15.

As during the 1993 and 1998 post-election deadlocks, Prince Ranariddh “felt he was under a lot of pressure,” a Funcinpec official close to the prince said Tuesday.

But the official said the prince’s absence would not likely affect the Funcinpec-CPP negotiations. Prince Ranariddh, after all, has been absent for several months throughout the eight-month long political deadlock, the official said.

“I think it worked out OK. He maintains contact [with the party] every day,” the official said.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanha­rith expressed little concern Tues­day, saying the prince and Prime Minister Hun Sen will eventually work out a resolution. “The spirit of the meetings” is in place al­ready, Khieu Kanharith said.

Repeated calls to Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou went unanswered Tuesday.

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