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Cambodia’s Next King: The Heir Least Apparent?

By Seth Mydans

The New York Times PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Playing one final hand in a lifelong game of chance, King Norodom Sihanouk has engineered the succession of his most self-effacing son, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, to the throne his father has held for more than 60 years.

On Monday, the government took the final steps to prepare a nine-member Throne Council that is charged, under the constitution, with selecting a new king. In this case, its action, expected this week, will very likely be a formality.

In a series of maneuvers over recent days, the king announced his surprise resignation and secured the backing for his choice of the country’s most powerful man, Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as the most ambitious of his sons, Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

His choice, Sihamoni, 51, has been as absent from the country’s affairs as his father has been dominant. He is a ballet dancer, choreographer and cinematographer who lives in France and until last month was Cambodia’s representative to UNESCO.

He began his career as a performer at the age of 14, when he played the title role in “The Little Prince,” in a film shot by his father, a prolific filmmaker and songwriter himself.

The prince is in Beijing, where Sihanouk, 81, has a home and is undergoing medical treatment. The father says the son had to be persuaded to accept the throne.

U.S. Releases Saudi-American Captured In Afghanistan

By Joel Brinkley and Eric Lichtblau

The New York Times RIYADH, Saudi Arabia

The three-year ordeal of Yaser E. Hamdi, the Saudi-American college student found in the company of Taliban fighters in 2001 and held in prison since then, came to an end Monday after a secret military flight from a Navy brig in South Carolina to the airport in Riyadh, where he was greeted by his rapturous family.

The United States had held Hamdi, 24, in solitary confinement as an “enemy combatant” for much of the past three years. One condition of his release required Hamdi, who was born in Baton Rouge, La., to renounce his U.S. citizenship within a week of his arrival here.

Hamdi did not wait a week; the Saudi Interior Ministry said he had proclaimed he was no longer American as soon as he stepped off the plane, about noon on Monday. Hamdi also spoke to Frank Dunham, his lawyer in Washington, shortly after he landed, and Dunham said his client declared the moment to be “awesome.”

Hamdi’s release had been held up for 10 days because of an impasse between the Saudi and U.S. governments. Saudi officials, irritated they had not been included in negotiations over his release, insisted that he be freed unconditionally because he was not charged with any crime.