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PHNOM PENH�Cambodia has agreed to destroy 233 Soviet-made MANPAD missiles with aid and funding of the United States, RFA�s Khmer service reports. The portable weapons�Man Portable Air Defense Systems�have been used in terrorist attacks against civilian aircraft, including when al-Qaida-linked militants fired on and narrowly missed an unprotected Israeli airliner in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002.

U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray spoke at a press conference at the Cambodian Defense Ministry on March 1. The U.S. Congress has approved a grant of U.S.$233,000 to help destroy the surface-to-air missiles from its military stockpile. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the destruction of all 233 Strela-2 missiles in his military's possession in December. The missiles were acquired from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s when Cambodia was still a communist country.

�I am pleased to announce today that United States Government funding has been approved so that Cambodia can implement this initiative, and that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces�will destroy the entire stockpile of Cambodian MANPADS,� Ambassador Charles Ray told reporters at the Cambodian Defense Ministry on Tuesday.

(from left) U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray with Cambodian co-ministers of Defense Tea Banh and Prince Sisowath Sirirath at the March 1 press conference. �We are moving forward to destroy [the missiles] from our stockpiles in order to end any concerns and doubts of the international community and the world that such missiles will fall into the hands of a terror group,� Cambodian Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh told reporters.

�To eliminate these weapons is to secure Cambodia with peace and ensure safety in the region and worldwide while terror groups are attempting to obtain these weapons to attack commercial airplanes or to kill people. To let them fall into the hands of terrorists would seriously damage Cambodia�s reputation and badly affect our tourism, economy, and social development,� Tea Banh said.


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