Cambodian Premier Hun Sen invited resistance leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk to return to his homeland as head of state in a dramatic beginning to new peace talks Tuesday.
After only two hours of talks, Hun Sen emerged with the announcement of his invitation to Sihanouk, his long-time rival."We have invited the prince to return home and become the head of state," Hun Sen said. Sihanouk, head of the United Nations-recognized Cambodian coalition, said his answer would depend on unspecified changes in the country's constitution and whether Vietnam withdraws its 70,000 troops as promised by Sept. 30.
Sources close to the talks said it was not clear if Sihanouk's proposed position in Phnom Penh would be merely a ceremonial one with Hun Sen still in charge or would have greater substance.
Sihanouk sought refuge in Beijing in 1979 after Vietnam invaded Cambodia and toppled the 3-year-old Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot, who has been blamed for the deaths of some 1.5 million of his countrymen.
Describing an unprecedented atmosphere of cooperation, Hun Sen said he and Sihanouk agreed to stop receiving military aid once the Vietnamese troops pull out of Cambodia.
"This is a step forward," Hun Sen said.
China is the principal backer of the reisistance forces while Moscow bankrolls the Hanoi-supported regime in Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen dropped his prior demand that Beijing immediately stop supplying the Khmer Rouge, Sihanouk's strongest military partner.