Cambodian political rivals edge towards agreement
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) shakes hands with opposition leader Sam Rainsy during a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, on September 17, 2013.
Hun Sen, who has ruled for 28 years, held talks with opposition leader Sam Rainsy at the parliament in Phnom Penh in the wake of violent clashes in the capital at the weekend in which one civilian was shot dead and several wounded.
The meeting came as thousands of protesters massed for a third consecutive day to challenge the strongman premier's disputed victory in July elections.
The talks were the third in four days between 61-year-old Hun Sen, who has vowed to rule until he is 74, and Rainsy, who returned from self-imposed exile in July after a royal pardon for criminal convictions he contends were politically motivated.
"We have come closer to finding a solution to the problem facing the country," opposition spokesman Yim Sovann told reporters after the latest talks.
He said more discussions were needed to reach an agreement before parliament convenes at the beginning of next week.
The opposition planned to wrap up three days of mass protests later Tuesday, while leaving open the possibility of fresh rallies later.
Ruling party spokesman Prak Sokhon said the two sides were "on the path to find a joint resolution".
On Monday Hun Sen and Rainsy, a French-educated former banker, agreed to heed the king's call for an end to the violence, to set up a mechanism to bring about election reform in the future and to continue negotiations, according to a joint statement that gave few details.
The two sides, however, remained at odds over the opposition's demand for the creation of an independent "truth committee" to investigate the July polls.
Rainsy's Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has threatened to boycott the opening of the parliament next Monday unless the alleged poll irregularities are addressed.
The opposition blamed the authorities for the death of a protester who was shot dead during a clash in Phnom Penh Sunday, on the fringes of a mass demonstration that drew an estimated 20,000 people demanding an independent probe into the vote.
Security forces fired smoke grenades, tear gas and water cannon at rock-throwing protesters.
International rights groups accused the security forces of firing live ammunition -- an allegation denied by the authorities.
"There must be an immediate and impartial investigation into the killing of this man, and full disclosure about why the security forces resorted to lethal force," said Amnesty International deputy Asia director Isabelle Arradon.
Organisers of the demonstration said a 35-year-old monk at the rally had poured petrol on himself on stage on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to set himself on fire, but he was stopped by onlookers.
"He is very emotional and he wants a solution to be reached more quickly," senior opposition party official Ho Vann told AFP.
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