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Obama set for first visit, official says

United States President Barack Obama plans to visit Cambodia late next year for a regional summit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting between Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and David Carden, the US Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Koy Kuong said that Cambodia expects to welcome Obama at the ASEAN-US summit next November in Phnom Penh.

“The President of the United States, Barack Obama, will visit Cambodia for next year’s ASEAN-US summit,” he said. The US Embassy in Phnom Penh, however, said it had not been informed of the visit.

“We have not heard anything from the White House about a commitment [by Obama] to come to Cambodia,” embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh said. “There has not been a public announcement.”

Obama’s visit would mark the first time a sitting US president has traveled to the Kingdom. The most prominent member of the US government to visit Cambodia during Obama’s administration has been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who included a stop in Cambodia during a seven-country Asian tour last November.

Koy Kuong said that Obama’s visit would come after next year’s US presidential election, scheduled for November 4. Even if Obama loses, he would still hold the office until January 2013 when the president-elect would be sworn in. Despite a lack of confirmation from the embassy, Ambassador Carden suggested the visit would occur.

“The meetings have been set next year for after the presidential election in order to give my president, our president, the opportunity to attend the EAS summit and the leaders’ meeting here next year,” he told reporters after his meeting with Hor Namhong.

It was unclear whether Carden was referring to the ASEAN-US Summit or the East Asia Summit. This year the two summits are being held in Bali, Indonesia: the former on November 18 and the latter on November 19. Obama is scheduled to attend both.

The first ASEAN-US Summit was held in November 2009, when President Obama met all 10 ASEAN leaders in Singapore.

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