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Foreign Minister Meets US Senator Over War-Era Debt

Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong meeting with US Senator Jim Webb at the Senate on Wednesday, June 13, 2012, during his official visit to the United States.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met with Senator Jim Webb, of Virginia, this week, to discuss how Cambodia might be forgiven war-era debt to the US or find a better way to pay it off.

“I proposed through the senator to urge the US government to send a delegation to negotiate the debt issue with the Cambodian Ministry of Economy and Finance,” Hor Namhong told VOA Khmer in an exclusive interview after the meeting on Wednesday. “I have also suggested a review on the possibility of renegotiating on the schedule of payment on the debt and its arrears in a fair way so that we can completely solve the debt between the two countries.”

Hor Namhong is on a swing through the US this week, during which time he has met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other US officials.

Cambodia owes nearly $450 million on pre-Khmer Rouge borrowing. Cambodian officials have said they should not have to repay the money, which was loaned to the US-backed regime of Marshall Lon Nol. It was used for the purchase of cotton, tobacco, cooking oil, flour and rice.

Hor Namhong told VOA Khmer he also requested tax-exempt status on Cambodian exports to the US. “I told the senator that economic development in the past few years was due to exports to the US,” Hor Namhong said.

Cambodia currently exports around $2 billion in goods to the US, while importing around $200 million in goods each year.