Australia Calls for UN Transitional Team in Cambodia

STALLED Cambodian peace talks are getting an Australian push-start. Australian diplomats, and a growing number of supporters, are getting behind a new plan for Cambodia. It calls for the war-weary nation to be governed by a transitional United Nations administration, accompanied by UN peace-keeping forces, for six to 12 months. Then, internationally supervised elections would install a new government.

In September, peace talks in Paris centered on a plan that included a transitional government composed of the four feuding factions: the Vietnam-backed Hun Sen government and the guerrilla coalition forces of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Son Sann, and the China-backed Khmer Rouge.

The scheduled withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia in September was considered the initial phase of a comprehensive peace initiative. But the initiative has faltered over the issue of including the Khmer Rouge in a transitional government. The fanatical Marxist group is held responsible for more than 1 million deaths between 1975-79.

``Most people are finding abhorrent and unacceptable the notion that the Khmer Rouge, with its record of genocidal brutality, should have any place at all at the governing table. The merit of this proposal is that it denies them such a place,'' Australia's Foreign Minister Gareth Evans said last month when he launched his plan.

On Wednesday, Cambodian guerrillas, reverting to the hard-line stand they dropped two years ago, said they would not negotiate with the Phnom Penh government. A statement issued in the name of Prince Sihanouk said the tripartite guerrilla alliance ``absolutely refuses and will refuse to negotiate with the regime which serves foreign aggressors against its own nation.''

The Khmer Rouge-dominated resistance also rejected a government call for the UN to take a neutral stand in the conflict, evict the guerrillas from Cambodia's UN seat, and send in a UN force to police the country until elections could be held.

The Evans proposal has garnered support and sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity at the UN. Hun Sen gave tentative support to the Australian proposal if the UN seat now held by the Khmer Rouge were made vacant, according to the official Cambodian news agency.

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