Cambodian and international judges have reached an agreement on the rules that will govern running of the coming human-rights trial of the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Rory Byrne reports from Phnom Penh.

Efforts to begin hearings on human-rights abuses under the Khmer Rouge government are moving forward, now that the tribunal judges have resolved disagreements on the rules that will govern everything from defense lawyers to victims' rights.

The agreement last week means the way is now open to try the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge. During the late 1970's, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for the deaths of nearly two-million Cambodians.

Helen Jarvis is the spokeswoman for the tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

"Friday was a very important day in the history of the Extraordinary Chambers because both international and national judges in the review committee came together and agreed finally on the content of the internal rules," she said. "This is something they have been working on, really, since last July, so it was a big break through"

Negotiations resolved Cambodian concerns about protecting national sovereignty, and eased U.N. fears about the risk of political interference in the trials.

There also was a dispute about whether foreign defense lawyers would be allowed. Under the agreement, they will be, but only as a part of a team that contains at least one Cambodian lawyer.

Few other details of the agreement have been released.

The only outstanding disagreement concerns the high fees that foreign lawyers will be charged to join the Cambodian Bar Association before they can take part in the trials.

"There is still a sticking point on the fees, but that is a question that is outside the internal rules," said Jarvis. "So now the job of the internal rules is complete and we are calling a plenary session in all likelihood on the 30th of April."

Now that the way has been cleared to try the Khmer Rouge leadership, work will begin to select the judges and lawyers who will take part in the trial. The first defendant is not expected to appear before a judge before early next year.