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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MFN to be lobbied in senate: Lord

MFN to be lobbied in senate: Lord

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Winston Lord said that

the Clinton administration would lobby the Senate to unconditionally hammer out Most

Favored Nation status to allow Cambodian exports to enter the US market.

"We will continue to push MFN unconditionally for Cambodia. It is important

not only for trade here but also for promoting investment," Lord (pictured below)

said at a press conference on Jan 16.

MFN already passed the US House of Representatives but was yet to be approved by

senate, he said.

"MFN is supported by the administration for Cambodia, we support it and it should

be unconditional, in our view," he said.

During his three-day visit (Jan 14-16), the state department official met with National

Assembly chairman Chea Sim, co-Premiers Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, Foreign Minister

Ung Huot, NGO representatives, student and human rights groups.

He failed to elaborate specific topics of his talks with the Cambodian leaders, but

said that they were "frank, with mutual respect".

In December, Hun Sen angered by the Senate's attempt to condition MFN launched a

blunt criticism at the US, along with France, and threatened to hold a peaceful demonstration

against their embassies to stop their interference in Cambodia's internal affairs.

Lord, whose trip was also seen as a move to clear any doubt in the two nations' ties,

refused to discuss the topic with the press but said "We focused really on the

future rather than on the past."

"We're not here to interfere in the domestic affairs, we are here as a friend

to suggest that opposition expression and parties are important elements," said

Lord.

"I think it's helpful to government leaders to have a free press so that they

can keep in touch with the people of different points of view so that difficult issues

can be debated," he said.

"I think you have greater stability when there is openess in a society rather

than having it bottled up," he said.

He acknowledged difficulties Cambodia is facing on its democratic path which the

US will continue to support and encourage.

"There is no question that the road to democracy is a complex one. But I think

we also have to keep in mind just how far Cambodia has come from the killing fields

in recent years. We encourage it in Cambodia's own self interest and in terms of

maintaining international support," he said.

However, Lord made it known that Washington would also keep close watch on the Kingdom's

democratic development.

"I think we owe it to the Cambodian government as friend to point out where

we see certain development could be troublesome. So, if there are unfortunate events

in the future, which I don't predict and I hope it not occur, we will convey our

concerns," he said.

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