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Former King Hopes to Return Before Elections, Official Says

Former King Norodom Sihanouk hopes to return to Cambodia ahead of national elections next year, a Royal Palace representative said Friday, following concerns of political instability in the absence of the former monarch.

However, Oum Daravuth, a member of the royal cabinet, said Sihanouk's return depended on his doctors in Beijing, where he is undergoing medical checkups.

The king hoped to continue to be an "umbrella" for the people, Oum Daravuth said.

King Norodom Sihamoni, who accompanied Sihanouk to the Beijing, will return to Cambodia Dec. 12, Oum Daravuth said.

Many Cambodians consider the presence of royalty during potentially turbulent political times a positive sign.

Oum Daravuth also sought Friday to quell rumors Sihanouk would try to form his own political party ahead of national parliamentary elections, scheduled for July 2008.

The former monarch has repeatedly denied such rumors, Oum Daravuth said.