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Hun Sen, Opposition Share Words at Airport

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy had a brief exchange over the deadlocked government Friday, as they waited for former king Norodom Sihanouk to leave the country.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told opposition leader Sam Rainsy Friday if the opposition party does not attend a swearing-in ceremony for the new government later this month, the ruling party would divide the party's 26 parliamentary seats among all the other parties.

The National Assembly swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 24, but constitutional experts say competing parties can maintain a governmental deadlock by not attending.

Hun Sen made his remarks to Sam Rainsy at Phnom Penh International Airport, as they waited for former king Norodom Sihanouk, former queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, King Norodom Sihamoni and a royal entourage to depart for Beijing Friday morning.

The two spoke in full view of reporters and high-ranking political officials from several parties.

"I don't care if you deny the election results or not," Hun Sen said. "What I said is that on the 24th, whether you attend the swearing-in ceremony or not, I don't care. If you don't attend the swearing-in ceremony, you will have invalidated 26 seats, and we will divide them to other parties."

"I have 2 million votes," Sam Rainsy said.

"Yes, you mention 2 million votes," Hun Sen replied, shaking his finger at his long-time political opponent, "but if you don't attend the swearing-in ceremony, if you want to know, you will see," a Khmer expression that means, "If you don't believe me, wait and see."

Contacted at his party headquarters later Friday evening, Sam Rainsy declined to comment on the exchange.

"I'm worrying about the number of people who could not vote [Sunday]," he said. "We deny the result of the election. I don't care what Hun Sen said."