A United Nations delegation has arrived in Cambodia for a week-long mission to work out details for setting up a genocide tribunal for leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. The head of the delegation says tribunal proceedings will likely start next year.

The coordinator of a United Nations delegation, Karsten Herrel, said his mission in Cambodia will be "absolutely essential" in persuading aid donors that a joint genocide tribunal for leaders of the Khmer Rouge will be worthwhile.

His five-member delegation arrived Sunday to determine the technical aspects of setting up the tribunal, such as a schedule, costs and facilities. Mr. Herrel says that the long-awaited trials will be "a very complex undertaking," and probably will begin in 2004.

The tribunal is intended to bring to justice the surviving leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Their late 1970s rule led to the deaths of more than one million people by execution, starvation, disease and overwork.

The delegation plans to speak with the Cambodian government's tribunal taskforce, government ministers, private organizations and representatives from countries interested in funding the tribunal. Mr. Herrel said that in early February, the United Nations will give an update on the progress in setting up the tribunal and appeal to member states for money to run it.

One snag is that Cambodia's National Assembly has not yet approved the tribunal. The country's political parties are currently negotiating their way out of a political deadlock resulting from the July general election. The trial cannot get the official go-ahead until a government is formed.

Cambodia and the United Nations agreed in March to set up the tribunal nearly six years after negotiations started. It is seen by many as a last chance to bring to justice surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, most of whom live freely in Cambodia.