>Cambodia in talks to ease tensions

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Wern Champasak (L), Thailand’s chief of border communication, talks to Colonel Som Bopharath, Cambodia’s military commander of the Preah Vihear province at the Cekakiri Svarak pagoda in the compound of the Preah Vihaer temple, 245 km (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, July 17, 2008. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday a border row with Thailand was “worsening” and urged the immediate withdrawal of Thai troops from the disputed ancient temple. A political uproar in Thailand over Cambodia’s listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site has been stoked by groups seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s shaky ruling coalition.

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia says it has agreed with Thailand to meet early next week to defuse tensions in a border dispute.

Thailand did not immediately confirm the planned meeting next Monday.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the two countries’ prime ministers had a “cordial” phone conversation, and that their defence ministers would meet on Monday in Thailand to discuss the latest flare-up over competing claims to land around Preah Vihear temple.

The temple was given World Heritage Site status last week, providing new fodder to the long-standing conflict.

As tensions rose, Cambodia accused Thai troops of crossing the border – a charge Thailand has publicly denied. The border between the two countries near the temple has never been fully demarcated.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Sundaravej also agreed that “both sides should do the utmost to prevent anything from happening”, Khieu Kanharith said.

Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia would not “use force unless attacked” and that the “situation was stable”.

Thai army commander General Anupong Paojindasaid likewise said he has ordered his troops to refrain from using force.

Thai officials have publicly denied that their troops crossed the border, saying the soldiers are in Thai territory to protect its sovereignty.

However, a senior Thai military source acknowledged on Wednesday that about 200 Thai troops were inside “disputed border territory”.

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