The historic attempt by ASEAN to forge peace in Cambodia ran aground last night despite two days of intensive back-room talks. Cambodian Foreign Minister Ung Huot was sent home to Phnom Penh to get a firm clarification from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose putsch three weeks ago shattered a coalition with First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh - who began a visit to Beijing yesterday. Confusion degenerated into stalemate last night when Mr Hun Sen sent a note effectively ruling out mediation, saying the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' only role could be to stop 'foreign interference'. Mr Ung Huot - a close ally of the prince - earlier insisted to the grouping that Mr Hun Sen had changed his mind and was now keen for ASEAN involvement. He left Kuala Lumpur with diplomats and envoys deeply unsure of exactly who he represented, amid a string of conflicting reports from the Cambodian capital. Mr Ung Huot arrived in Kuala Lumpur as an observer on a mission to play down the violence of Mr Hun Sen's takeover and the resulting damage to coalition rule. However, he failed to overturn ASEAN's postponement of Cambodia's scheduled entry to the grouping with Burma and Laos on Wednesday. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Mr Ung Huot could be for elected as the replacement for Prince Ranariddh during a National Assembly meeting next week. Mr Hun Sen met United States State Department envoy Stephen Solarz in Phnom Penh yesterday and agreed to allow political exiles who fled the country during the July 5-6 coup to return. Later, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, arriving in Kuala Lumpur to attend today's ASEAN Regional Forum, hinted at a possible US shift on Cambodia, toward acceptance of the removal of Prince Ranariddh. She condemned 'taking power by force' but then added: 'We have to judge Hun Sen's behaviour as it moves forward and whether he is able to deal with another prime minister in a power-sharing situation where there is no resort to force'.