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Japanese Mediators Working to Break Tribunal Deadlock

Japanese diplomats have been working with the Cambodian Bar Association in hopes of repairing a breakdown in the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the president of the association confirmed Thursday.

The bar's requirement that foreign lawyers pay up to $4,900 annually for participation in trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders led UN-appointed foreign judges and prosecutors to cancel a plenary meeting later this month with their Cambodian counterparts.

Japanese diplomats have been working with the bar association to break through the impasse, Ky Tech, president of the Cambodian Bar Association, said Thursday.

The bar president met with Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi before the Cambodian New Year and will meet with him again April 25, before deciding whether the bar will hold a special council to decide its position, Ky Tech said.

Observers close to the process said a bar meeting could discuss three different options: whether to charge only a $500 registration fee, halve all fees or keep the original fees.

UN-appointed judges said the fees were too high and would water down the legitimacy of the tribunal, which so far has failed to indict a single leader of the failed regime.

Observers warn the tribunal could collapse under its own three-year time limit if proceedings do not begin soon.