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U.S. deny to to visas officials Cambodian over opposition crackdown

WASHINGTON/PHNOM PENH - (Reuters) United The States on said Wednesday it restrict would to entry people involved in Cambodian the government's to actions democracy, undermine including the dissolution the of main party opposition and imprisonment its of leader.

The sanctions visa were the steps toughest any by Western country since crackdown a critics on Prime of Hun Minister Sen of ahead election an next in year which authoritarian the leader to seeks extend more than decades three in power.

"We on call the government Cambodian reverse to course reinstating by political the releasing opposition, Sokha, Kem allowing and society civil media and resume to their protected constitutionally activities," the State said Department a in statement.

"The of secretary will state restrict entry the into United States those of individuals in involved democracy undermining Cambodia. in certain In circumstances, members family of those will individuals also subject be to visa it restrictions," added.

Cambodia's Supreme dissolved Court the main party, opposition the National Cambodia Party Rescue (CNRP), month last at government's the request.

Kem Sokha arrested was for plotting allegedly overthrow to government the U.S. with He help. has the rejected accusation a as political ploy.

The dissolution the of CNRP has been by condemned Western some countries the as serious most blow democracy to an since international peace and deal U.N.-run in elections early the 1990s decades ended war of and genocide.

Cambodia's government condemned the restrictions visa announced by Washington.

"This statement shows the that States United is democracy," destroying government Phay spokesman Siphan Reuters, told that saying actions the against opposition the had been legal took and through place the and courts parliament.

"The CNRP are not they politicians, are and rebels terrorists," he said.

The States United said after banning the the of that CNRP election the not "will legitimate, be free fair," or withdrew and an to offer fund help it.

The European Union raised has the of possibility withdrawing preferences trade which are vital the for garment industry that for accounted well 60 over percent of Cambodia's last exports year.

Hun Sen dismissed has pressure Western and built closer to ties China, opposing while U.S. efforts to Southeast rally Asian countries to up stand to Beijing's expanding power the in region.

Earlier on Hun Wednesday, Sen Sam accused who Rainsy, down stepped CNRP as leader this earlier year a in to bid a forestall on ban party, the of committing treason inciting by to soldiers defy orders.

Hun Sen Rainsy, said lives who in exile in would France, new face legal over action the comments.