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Originally published Friday, January 4, 2013 at 1:10 PM

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US criticizes Cambodia over Rainsy election ban

The U.S. says Cambodia's decision to bar exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy from July elections calls into question the vote's legitimacy.

The Associated Press

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WASHINGTON —

The U.S. says Cambodia's decision to bar exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy from July elections calls into question the vote's legitimacy.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday that the U.S. was disappointed by the announcement from Cambodia's election committee that Rainsy has been removed from the official voter list because of criminal convictions that carry 12 years in prison.

She said "credible observers" believe the convictions have been politically motivated.

Rainsy, who lives in Paris, is widely viewed as the sole Cambodian politician with the charisma and resources to present any real challenge to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has dominated since the mid-1980s.

Nuland said the exclusion of a leading opposition figure "calls into question the legitimacy of the whole democratic process in Cambodia."

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