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FUTURE KING IS WELCOMED AFTER FATHER ENDS EXILE

Thousands of Cambodians jubilantly welcomed their new king upon his return to his homeland Wednesday, accompanied by his proud and protective father, the outgoing monarch.

The relatively little-known Norodom Sihamoni arrived from Beijing with the ailing 81-year-old Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk, who abdicated in favor of his son two weeks ago, has spent most of the last nine months in China, for medical treatment and in self-imposed exile to protest bickering among his country's political leaders.

"I have been greatly honored by the Khmer people, who have allowed me to continue this duty from my father," Sihamoni told reporters. "I am extremely touched, and I will do my utmost to serve the Khmer nation and people with all my abilities."

The official coronation is scheduled for Oct. 29.

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