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US lethal aid not out of question: Talbott

UNITED States Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, on a two-day visit to

Cambodia, repeated the US position that giving lethal military aid to Cambodia

has not been ruled out.

"The possibility of [lethal aid] will be

contingent upon further reform of the Cambodian military," Talbott told a press

conference on Jan 29.

He pledged continued non-lethal aid to the Royal

Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), such as food, medicine and

equipment.

Talbott, believed to be the highest-ranking US official to

visit Cambodia since the Sihanouk regime in the 1960s, had an audience with King

Norodom Sihanouk during his Jan 28-29 visit.

He said the King had agreed

that vigorous political and economic development was the best way to ensure the

demise of the Khmer Rouge.

Talbott praised the Cambodian government's

commitment to building democracy and did not believe the country would slip

backward.

Winston Lord, assistant secretary of state for Asia and the

Pacific, who accompanied Talbott, said some progress has already been made in

the structural reform of the Cambodian armed forces, including the reduction of

the number of generals from 2,000 to several hundred.

However, Lord said

a lot of work remained to be done, including eliminating "ghost soldiers" whose

pay was collected by real soldiers.

Meanwhile, the US officials' visit

prompted an angry response from the KR, which in a Feb 1 radio bulletin said the

US was responsible for prolonging the war by providing military aid to

Cambodia.

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