WASHINGTON The United States on Friday welcomed a decision by Cambodia's king to pardon opposition leader Sam Rainsy, allowing him to return from self-imposed exile in France to participate in general elections at the end of the month.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki urged Cambodia to allow Rainsy to participate freely in the vote.
"We call on the Cambodian Government to facilitate a safe environment for his return and allow for his meaningful and unfettered participation in the elections," Psaki told a daily briefing.
"While his safe return will be a significant step in the right direction, we encourage the Cambodian Government to continue implementing recommendations by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia aimed at free and fair elections," she added.
Rainsy was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2010 on charges of spreading disinformation and falsifying maps to contest a new border agreed by Cambodia and Vietnam.
U.S. lawmakers have threatened to cut aid to Cambodia unless the election is seen as free and fair.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Sandra Maler)