- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 13 (UPI) — U.N.-Cambodia exploratory talks to establish a special court in Phnom Penh to try Khmer Rouge suspects of crimes against humanity ended Monday on a note of optimism — the Cambodia delegation to return home, consult with leaders and then deliver a response to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

On the basis of that response, said Hans Corell, the top U.N. lawyer, Annan will decide whether to send a team to Phnom Penh to open substantive discussions on how such an extraordinary chamber can be set up within the Cambodian judicial system.

"We have had a very intense exploratory meeting," Corell told reporters Monday night. "We met six times, since last Monday, and also today," adding that a meeting was also head late Monday afternoon between Annan, Corell and Cambodian Senior Minister Sok An, head of the country's Council of Ministers, and leader of his delegation.

Corell described the talks as being held "in good spirit" with hard work, but refused to get into details.

"We have also looked at some substantive issues and discussed them rather in detail in order to be prepared for any further steps," Corell said. "Sok An has explained to me his intention is to go back to Phnom Penh for further consultations."

After that, legal counsel Corell said, a message was expected from Cambodian Prime Minister leader Hen Sen to Annan and then the Secretary-General would determine whether to dispatch Corell and a delegation to Phnom Penh for more substantive talks.

"We spent the whole week in New York," Sok An said. "We had a very serious discussion, trying to put forward preparations on how to agree on the agreement that will be the basis of cooperation between the government of Cambodia and the United Nations."

Sok An said he was "waiting for Hans Corell to lead a team to Phnom Penh for finalization of the draft of the agreement" to set up the extraordinary chamber.

Last month, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution directing Annan to resume negotiations with Cambodia in an effort to reach agreement on a special court. The secretary-general was to report back to the assembly by March 18 with results of the discussions for the 191-member body to take any needed further action.

Annan and Corell decided last February to break off talks because of a lack of progress.

The United Nations had insisted certain international standards be maintained to insure justice was properly carried out.

The United Nations previously pressed for an international tribunal but Cambodia insisted any such special chamber be within its own judicial system.

Some 1.7 million people were believed slaughtered in the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" of the late 1970s.

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