- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 6 (UPI) — Talks between the United Nations and Cambodia were held Monday to establish a special court to try former Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity. The aim is to set up extraordinary chambers under the nation's existing judicial system.

Hans Corell, the U.N.'s top lawyer, and Cambodia's Senior Minister Sok An, head of his nation's Council of Ministers, who leads the Cambodian side, met for three hours and were expected to resume talks at 5 p.m. EST Tuesday.

"We came very far — enough to demonstrate our good will," said the Cambodian official.

Said Corell: "We are very glad that they accepted the invitation." He added: "We hope that we have a very constructive meeting here."

Resumption of dialogue comes nearly a year after five years of talks on the subject ended.

They follow instructions from the 191-member General Assembly to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to invite Phnom Penh to resume discussions. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen accepted Annan's invitation last month to hold talks in New York.

Hun Sen has said remaining leaders of the Maoist Khmer Rouge would face trial for the slaughter of nearly 2 million people in the late 1970s, which gave rise to the term "the Killing Fields."

Cambodians call discussions "exploratory talks," but the United Nations has set no limit or agenda on the talks. The assembly asked Annan to report back by March 18.

Annan originally sought an international court while Cambodia wanted a tribunal within its system but with the participation of foreign judges and prosecutors.

Some Cambodians fear that trying the Khmer Rouge would reopen festering wounds, possibly even leading to resumption of civil war, which ended only in 1998 when remnant Maoists joined the government.

The prime minister, Hun Sen, is a former low-level Khmer Rouge commander. He deserted the movement in the latter part of its reign of terror.

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