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Austrian hydro aid

Deputy Foreign Minister Wolf-gang Schallenberg, the highest ranking Austrian

official ever to visit Cambodia, said after a four day visit to Phnom Penh he

would recommend to his government that U.S. $11 million be provided to support

the rehabilitation of the Kirirom hydroelectric power station.

"I think

(the project) should go forward," Schallenberg told the Post on Jan. 24. "We

need to look at details at the technical level but I hope the project can be

realized in the near future."

The Kirirom hydro station is located near a

Royal residence in the hills west of Route 4 about two hours south of Phnom

Penh. Built by the Yugoslavs in the l960s, the 10 megawatt power station and dam

are now in a state of near-complete disrepair.

A team of Austrian

hydropower experts examined the site last November. Subject to further technical

studies and a final green light from Vienna, Schallenberg said the plant could

be producing electricity, some of which would support power needs in Phnom Penh,

by 1997.

Schallenberg said he felt positive about the future of Cambodia.

"I got the impression stability is good here," he said. "It seems the Khmer

Rouge problem is over emphasized in the international media."

The

Austrian delegation, which included Austria's Jakarta-based Ambassador to

Cambodia Herbert Kroll, also discussed with local officials ways of supporting

the development of Cambodia's tourism industry.

Amb Kroll noted that

Austria receives over 20 million foreign tourists annually and, in this light,

they might be able to provide useful advice to the Kingdom.

Schallenberg

was also keen to point out that his visit was designed "to demonstrate

(Austria's) interest in our faraway friends." While, for obvious reasons, the

Austrian government was focusing on problems closer to home, such as the ongoing

war in Bosnia, Schallen-berg said that Austria's impending membership in the

European Union "could increase the possibility of closer relations with

countries like Cambodia."

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