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Senior US State Official To Meet With Leaders

When John Negroponte, a senior US State Department official, arrives in Cambodia for an official visit next month, he will encounter human rights groups unhappy with a host of problems and tension between the ruling party and opposition still battling over July's election.

Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State, is one of the highest-ranking US officials to travel to Cambodia in recent years.

Over three days starting Sept. 14, he will meet with government officials, opposition leaders and representatives of civil society, the embassy said.

"I really think that the fact that the Secretary is coming is a sign that our relationship is strengthening," US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said. The visit "will serve to deepen the ties between our two countries."

Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, said Thursday civic organizations hoped to raise a number of issues with Negroponte, including irregularities in July's election.

"The NGOs would raise the issues of land disputes, freedom of information, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, for example, the killing of journalist Khim Sambor, domestic violence, rape and human trafficking," she said.

Negroponte's visit will come ahead of a scheduled swearing-in ceremony for newly elected National Assembly members that the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties have threatened to boycott, potentially deadlocking the formation of the government.

Both parties maintain the elections were fraudulent, with a high number of irregularities occurring ahead of the polls and on Election Day.