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Troops to pull back in temple row.

7/29/2008 6:58:06 AM

Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to pull back hundreds of troops from disputed land near an ancient temple but are still far from resolving the issue of boundaries that could end the two-week standoff.

The agreement follows some 12 hours of talks between the foreign ministers from both countries, meeting in the nothern Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

The move will see the withdrawal of some 800 Cambodian and 400 Thai soldiers from the vicinity of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Both Cambodia and Thailand claim ownership to the territory surrounding the Khmer-era temple and the deployment of troops in the region had raised worries of a military confrontation.

Both sides have pledged to resolve the dispute "bilaterally and peacefully".

Hor Namhong, the Cambodian foreign minister, said they had "agreed to ask our governments to redeploy the troops" with details to be discussed later.

"We cannot resolve this problem at one meeting. It will require more meetings," he said. "We will exercise maximum restraint and avoid the use of armed force."

"The redeployment will only take place once the Thai government approves," Tej Bunnag, Thailand's foreign minister, said.

Forward proposals

Neither side has set any firm deadline for the troop withdrawal from area around the temple, or a date for the next meeting.

During Monday's talks the two countries also proposed a series of steps to end the conflict including a scheme to remove landmines that litter the area so that the border can be properly demarcated.

Cambodian and Thai officials said the meeting was the first step in what is likely to be protracted negotiations to end a dispute that has simmered for decades.

A first round of talks in Bangkok failed last week after Thai and Cambodian defence ministers could not agree on which maps to use to demarcate the border.

Cambodia had sought help from the United Nations but suspended its request pending the outcome of talks with Thailand.

The current conflict focuses on an area about 5 sq km of scrubland surrounding the 11th century temple which was recently awarded World Heritage listing by Unesco, the UN cultural organisation.

A[umlaut] 2003 - 2008

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Date:Aug 1, 2008
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