Japan is considering extending about 4 billion yen in yen loans to Cambodia during fiscal 1999, which begins in April, for repairs and expansion of the capacity of Sihanoukville port, government sources said Friday.

The loans for improving Sihanoukville port — the country’s sole international seaport — would mark the first time Japan has given Cambodia such low-interest loans in 31 years, the sources said.

Japan will probably unveil its financing plan for the port project at a meeting of Cambodia’s aid donors to be held in Tokyo at the end of February, although the exact amount to be lent will not be specified, the sources said.

The so-called Consultative Group of governments and organizations that extend aid to Cambodia met for the first time in Tokyo in July 1996 to discuss international assistance to help rebuild the war-torn country.

The group held its second meeting in Paris in July 1997, just before Hun Sen, Cambodia’s military-backed strongman, ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh, his partner in a shaky coalition, from the post of first prime minister in a bloody coup.

Although Ranariddh’s FUNCINPEC party defeated Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party in United Nations-supervised elections in May 1993, Ranariddh was forced to form a coalition government with Hun Sen under the threat of renewed civil war. The vote came 19 months after an international peace agreement was reached in Paris in October 1991 to end the deadly civil war among Cambodia’s rival factions.

Hun Sen’s ouster of Ranariddh sparked an international uproar, and most governments and organizations have withheld fresh economic aid from Cambodia.

Hun Sen was sworn in as prime minister on Nov. 30, four months after his Cambodian People’s Party won a narrow victory in elections. Earlier that day, a new coalition government between the Cambodian People’s Party and Ranariddh’s FUNCINPEC party was also inaugurated. Ranariddh became president of the National Assembly under a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

Hun Sen will come to Tokyo for the third meeting of the Consultative Group of Cambodia’s aid donors, which is scheduled for Feb. 26 and 27. The meeting will be chaired by the World Bank and attended by senior officials from more than 20 governments and organizations, including Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura.

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