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Iran offering Cambodia military aid: report

PHNOM PENH, June 25 (AFP) - Senior Iranian officials have visited Cambodia to offer military aid including training, it was reported here Friday.

The English-language Phnom Penh Post said Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan initially turned down an offer made three months ago for fear of upsetting western donors. But it said high-level private discussions had continued.

The report quoted co-Defence Minister Prince Sisowath Sereyrath as refusing to discuss meetings that have been "put in the top drawer and locked away."

The prince was quoted as adding that Cambodia "must be careful not to upset our allies."

Cambodia's other co-Defence Minister Tea Banh vigorously denied the report. "This story is not true and we completely deny we have ever had contact with Iranian officials."

"So far our military only has relations with France and the United States," he said.

Cambodia has recently embarked on a plan to slash its cumbersome armed forces in a costly project set to be paid for by the World Bank on the approval of major western donors eager to see the military cut down to a manageable size.

Cambodia has a ramshackle navy unable to deal with increasing piracy. Its air force consists of just one working Czechoslavak-made training jet, several Soviet-era helicopters and a handful of broken-down MiG-21s.


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