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Clinton pushes for Khmer Rouge trials

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Cambodia should pursue an independent foreign policy without relying too much on China. UPI/Michael Reynolds/Pool | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/3cf508267363fa75518858ea8579853e/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Cambodia should pursue an independent foreign policy without relying too much on China. UPI/Michael Reynolds/Pool | License Photo

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday the United States is committed to seeing Khmer Rouge leaders prosecuted for genocide and other crimes.

At a joint press conference with Hor Namhong, Cambodia's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Clinton noted the United States recently contributed $5 million to the tribunal hearing charges arising from atrocities allegedly ordered by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

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"And as I told his excellency, we are committed to helping Cambodia hold accountable those senior Khmer Rouge leaders most responsible for atrocities," she said. "I salute the tribunal's ongoing efforts to bring justice to the victims that promote the rule of law."

In response to a question, she called pursuit of genocide, torture and other charges in the second Khmer Rouge case "our first and most pressing piece of business."

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That case is scheduled to begin in the first half of next year.

Noting reluctance within the Cambodian government to move beyond that case, Clinton said, "That is something that we in the international community should consult closely with the Cambodian government on."

Clinton also said the United States is "very, very interested" in pursuing a settlement on debt incurred by Cambodia during the Lon Nol regime.

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"There have been no discussions since 2006 at all, and we think it's time for our experts to meet and explore a broad range of potential areas for settling of this debt," she said.

Clinton said her talks with Cambodian officials "have left me convinced that we can work even more closely together to help meet the challenges facing Cambodia and all of Southeast Asia." She cited U.S. efforts to help Cambodia improve its health systems and applauded the country's commitment to prevent the spread of HIV and treat people with AIDS.

Clinton also mentioned U.S. programs to teach English and help improve Cambodian agriculture, and said she is especially appreciative of Cambodia's commitment to regional efforts to address the challenges in education, health and the environment affecting those living in the Lower Mekong River Basin.

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Clinton lauded Cambodia's "progress in countering corruption."

Earlier, Clinton said Cambodia should pursue an independent foreign policy without relying too much on China.

Clinton is on a seven-country trip through Asia in support of the administration's view of Asia as a key to the future and its efforts to balance the influence of China.

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China provides Cambodia with more than $200 million a year.

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