Cambodian leader Hun Sen refused Tuesday to meet with former co-prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh during the ousted leader's first visit home in nine months.
Hun Sen spurned the request for talks about upcoming elections because he is mourning the recent death of his mother and has vowed not to meet officials or diplomats until May, said Prak Sokhon, an aide to Hun Sen.Ranariddh's return marked a key step toward holding elections Hun Sen has called for July 26. He arrived from Thailand on Monday, but concerns for his safety are high, and he plans to return to Bangkok on Friday.
Ranariddh said Tuesday he received a message from Hun Sen relayed through the U.N. special representative to Cambodia saying that he would be prepared to meet in early May. Ranariddh said he was not sure where that meeting would occur.
"I will meet with Mr. Hun Sen as old friends, brothers responsible for the destiny of the 11 million people of this country," Ranariddh said.
Earlier, hundreds of supporters applauded when the prince stood on his balcony and waved between meetings with members of his royalist party. The prince hoped to use his visit to strengthen his party.
Ranariddh's party won U.N.-sponsored elections in 1993 but was forced to share power when Hun Sen threatened to renew a civil war. Hun Sen deposed Ranariddh in a coup last July that left at least 43 of the prince's supporters dead. Foreign nations cut off aid in protest, and Hun Sen needs new elections if he is to legitimize his rule.