US Envoy Post Up in the Air

The US Senate allowed the nomination of a new ambassador to Cambodia to lapse Wed­nes­day, effectively killing the nomination of Kent Wiedemann, at least until January.

The failure to confirm Wie­demann, now charge d’affaires in Burma, puts a question mark over who will fill the post of Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, who had been expected to leave as early as next month.

But the US administration rejected calls from Cambodian opposition politicians for the US to leave the post vacant as a message to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“In our judgement, it is important to have an ambassador in Cambodia,” a State Department policy statement said this week.

Wiedemann’s nomination was withheld from a vote as the Se­nate rushed to approve a long list of ambassadorial nominees be­fore recessing for the rest of the calendar year.

Opposition leaders Prince No­ro­dom Ranariddh and Sam Rain­sy had opposed Wiedemann in a Sept 11 letter to Senate Foreign Re­lations Committee Chairman Jes­se Helms, saying Wiedemann “may be less than supportive of the cause of democracy in Cam­bodia.”

Embassy insiders said that Quinn, who has served in Phnom Penh for 2 1/2 years, could be asked to stay on for ano­ther stint. Or, if he leaves, First Secretary Carol Rodley could be put in charge until a new nominee, perhaps Wied­emann again, is put forward in the new US Senate in January.

Quinn, reached at his office in Phnom Penh, declined comment, saying only, “Kent is a friend of mine, and I am disappointed for him.”



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