UN Rep Here To Assess Poll Preparations

UN Asia-Pacific Representative Francesc Vendrell arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to as­sess preparations for July’s scheduled elections. 

Speaking to reporters on his arrival, Vendrell said that he would meet Tuesday evening with King Norodom Sihanouk in Siem Reap to gain the monarch’s assessment of the situation six weeks away from the July 26 polls.

“The King is the guarantor of the Cambodian Constitution and has the universal respect of the international community so I should wish to pay my respects and listen to whatever His Ma­jesty would like to tell me,” he said.

Vendrell said he is also scheduled to meet with First Prime Minister Ung Huot and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen during his four-day visit, as well as with leaders from a range of political parties.

Vendrell then plans to attend a meeting of the Friends of Cam­bodia, an informal grouping of aid donors and international diplomatic representatives, in Bang­kok on Saturday to discuss Cam­bodia’s progress toward free and fair elections.

“I thought it would be useful for me to come to Cambodia beforehand to have an idea as to how things are moving along,” Ven­drell said.

Vendrell also said he would discuss with UN personnel here the UN’s continued participation in the elections before submitting a recommendation to UN Secre­tary-General Kofi An­nan.

UN human rights envoy Tho­m­as Hammarberg said earlier this month that a decision would have to be made by the first week in July, as it would be difficult to re-call many short-term international observers once they are on the ground.

But Vendrell downplayed the suggestion that the UN might review its role that radically.

“We’re not necessarily talking of withdrawing the observers,” he said.

“It’s a question of simply taking the temperature to see how to proceed.”

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