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Cambodia, UN Produce Draft Agreement on Khmer Rouge Tribunal - 2003-03-17

Cambodian and U.N. negotiators have reached a draft agreement on trying senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge government for human rights violations.

The agreement on trying the leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge follows years of rocky negotiations.

A year ago, the United Nations abandoned the talks, saying Cambodian laws could not guarantee international standards of justice.

Talks resumed last week, at the urging of the U.N. General Assembly. The two sides say they agreed on all the technical issues in what are called the "articles of cooperation."

The articles allow the United Nations to participate in a trial with Cambodian and U.N. prosecutors and judges.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen now must submit the text to the National Assembly for approval, while U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will submit a copy to the United Nations.

Observers said the agreement is unlikely to face serious opposition in either the United Nations or in Cambodia. Secretary General Annan is to report on the progress of the negotiations on Tuesday.

Hans Corell led the U.N. negotiation team. After final meetings with government negotiators, Mr. Corell toured Chaktomouk theater, the proposed site for the tribunal, and met with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

A senior government official said that during their meeting, the Cambodian premier approved of Mr. Corell's proposal to cut down the number of court levels from three to two. Under the proposal, the tribunal will have an appeals court, but not a supreme court.

The 1975-79 Khmer Rouge government was responsible for the deaths of up to two million people by execution, starvation, and disease in their failed bid to turn the country into an ultra-Maoist agrarian utopia. None of the group's leaders has been brought to justice, and many live openly in Cambodia.