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US official praises Cambodia's progress on adoptions

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Wednesday September 13, 2006

Phnom Penh- A senior US consular official said Wednesday that she was impressed with Cambodian government efforts to make adoptions of children by US citizens more transparent, raising hopes an end to the four-year US government suspension might be in sight. Maura Harty, US assistant secretary of state, said she had met with Long Visalo, secretary of state for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng on the second day of her two-day trip and had been impressed with Cambodia's progress on the issue.

But she declined to give any further indication of if or when the ban might be lifted.

"The most important feature of any system of adoption requires protection for the children," she said, adding that Cambodia's progress in improving the international adoption system had been impressive.

Adoptions from Cambodia were suspended by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service in December 2001.

Other countries including France and Australia also suspended adoptions until they were sure concerns had been addressed, stranding many families in the process of adoption.

In July, 2004, Hawaiian woman Lauryn Galindo, then 53, who had helped hundreds of people - including actress Angelina Jolie adopt her Cambodian son Maddox - pleaded guilty to visa fraud and money laundering as part of a ring that paid poor Cambodian women as little as 100 dollars or less for their children.

A US court heard the agency, which also included Galindo's sister Lynn Devin, then told potential adoptive parents in the US that the children were orphans and received fees of 10,000 dollars or more.

No evidence was ever found to suggest Jolie's son was one of the children who had fallen victim to the agency's fraudulent practices.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur