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Chinese lawmaker arrives

CHINA’S top legislator arrived in the Kingdom yesterday for a four-day visit on the heels of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s two-day stay earlier this week.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Wu Bangguo, chairman of the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress, arrived yesterday, leading a delegation of approximately 100 Chinese business and government officials.

“The most important thing for this visit ... is to improve ties and the relationship between Cambodia and China’s national assembly,” Cheam Yeap said.

Chinese embassy spokesman Qian Hai described the trip as an “official, friendly visit”.

“[Wu] will meet all the top leaders of Cambodia and sign some cooperation agreements,” Qian Hai said. He did not elaborate on what these agreements might include.

Cheam Yeap, who serves as chairman of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee, said Wu would meet with King Norodom Sihamoni, Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen. In the meeting with the premier, Cheam Yeap said, Wu would discuss the possible cancellation or restructuring of the Kingdom’s debt to China.

Cheam Yeap was unsure of how much debt might be cancelled, but said that Beijing had forgiven roughly US$200 million in Cambodian debt in “the last couple of years”.

On Monday, Clinton said she would dispatch a “team of experts” to resolve the long-standing issue of Cambodia’s Lon Nol-era debt to the US. With interest, the debt stands at roughly $445 million.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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