Khmer Rouge accuses PM of coup plot

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Cambodia's Khmer Rouge guerrillas yesterday accused the country's second Prime Minister of plotting a coup against his partner in Cambodia's fractured coalition, as negotiations with the rebel group appeared to have stalled.

Cambodia's First Prime Minister, Prince Norodom Ranar-iddh, who has been holding talks with the guerrillas, travelled to Bangkok yesterday to meet a senior Cambodian official, a key negotiator with the rebels, at Phnom Penh's embassy in Bang-kok, a Thai security source said.

Prince Ranariddh's top military adviser, another key negotiator in the Khmer Rouge talks, was sent to the guerrillas' north-west base of Anlong Veng on Thursday but he later reported no progress in securing the hand- over of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, a key condition in the peace talks.

Relations between Prince Ranariddh and the Second Prime Minister, Hun Sen, which have been strained for more than a year over a power-sharing dispute, have been inflamed by a sharp difference over how to handle the dwindling Khmer Rouge rebel movement.

While Prince Ranariddh has supported peace talks, Hun Sen considers negotiations with the rebels illegal. Political analysts said their dispute over the Khmer Rouge reflected attempts by both men to bolster their political positions ahead of elections next May. The coalition government was formed after Cambodia's United Nations- run elections in 1993.

The rebels' clandestine radio, said yesterday that Hun Sen was building up troops and fire power in the capital and at his Tuol Krasang compound near Phnom Penh in preparation for a strike against Prince Ranariddh. However, Khmer Rouge failed to broadcast a statement by Prince Ranariddh, who said negotiations cannot move forward until the rebels declare they have broken with Pol Pot and recognise the constitution.