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Cambodia Gets m$615 In Donor Aid

TOKYO - Participants in a two-day international donor meeting on aid for Cambodia agreed Wednesday to grant Cambodia a total of $615 million for the current year, a World Bank official said. Donors pledged $560 million for government programs and an additional $55 million for nongovernmental organisations operating in the country, the World Bank's Country Director for Cambodia, Ian Porter, told a news conference here. The total - about 20 percent more than Cambodia had requested - came despite some shortcomings in implementing the reform program, Porter said, because Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen had promised to try harder.

"There has been a number of critical areas where progress has not been as great as we had all hoped over the past year. We were happy to hear from him about the government's commitment to increase the tempo of the reform program going forward," Porter said. Areas in need of improvement included judicial reform and natural resource management, he added. Before the aid figure was formally announced, Hun Sen told a separate news conference that he was very pleased at the "positive result."

"We had requested assistance of $500 million ...So in golfing terms, we are successful in achieving an eagle rather than par," the premier said. Japan, Cambodia's largest single donor, pledged $118 million. Some of the money would be used to demobilize about 30,000 Cambodian soldiers by 2002 and ease them back into civilian life, Hun Sen said. He did not know the details of the aid allocation, but stressed that money could not be transferred from the project for which it was earmarked and spent on something else.

The two-day Consultative Group Meeting, the fifth since 1996, brought together 15 countries, including Australia, France, Sweden, Britain and the US, as well as the World Bank and other international agencies including the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is in Tokyo lobbying donors to set tough benchmarks for the government to meet. "This is the first time of any donor meeting that donors have spelled out very stringent conditions and have shown impatience and disappointment over the achievements of the Cambodian government compared to its commitments and promises," Sam Rainsy said. Porter said no donor country had explicitly linked its contributions to human rights improvements, but would judge by results on the reform program adopted. But Sam said the international community leaned heavily on Hun Sen to conduct war crimes tribunals for the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. Planning for the tribunals stalled earlier this year on a technicality. "The government promised that they will be held this year," Sam Rainsy said, adding that the promise was made to the World Bank in writing at the donors meeting. "It will not be easy money for the Hun Sen government," Sam Rainsy said.
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