Vietnam willing to cooperate in dioxin research: official
HANOI, March 22 (Xinhuanet) -- Vietnam is always willing to cooperate with scientists in the world, including those from the United States, to research the damage of Agent Orange in the country, Vietnam News Agency quoted the Foreign Ministry's spokesman Le Dung as saying Tuesday.
Le Dung made the speech Monday when answering a local newspaper' s question about Vietnam's reaction to the US cancellation of a joint US-Vietnam cooperation program to study the effects of AO/dioxin.
He stressed that solving the consequences of the effects on Vietnam's people and environment of AO/dioxin, which the US military used during the war, is an urgent humanitarian issue.
During the scientific study process, Dung said, it is an urgent task to give relief aid to the victims and help them overcome the consequences of AO/dioxin.
Vietnam always welcomes any research project aimed at detoxifying the victims, diagnosing and treating their diseases, the official said.
Moves afoot for first US visit by Vietnamese PM since end of war
22 March 2005
HANOI, March 22 (AFP) - Vietnam's prime minister could visit the United States before summer, according to diplomats and analysts, in what would be the first such official tour since the end of the Vietnam War 30 years ago.
The historic trip by Premier Phan Van Khai would mark 10 years since the former foes resumed diplomatic ties. The two have been since working to improve relations strained over Hanoi's human rights record but buoyed by steadily increasing trade flows.
"The two countries are negotiating through diplomatic channels to prepare this visit," a Vietnamese diplomat in Hanoi told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Barring unforeseen circumstances, the visit is to take place in May or June." The Vietnamse foreign ministry refused to comment on the reports. An official at the US embassy in Hanoi said there was "no confirmation of this visit" but did not deny discussions were under way.
Adam Sitkoff, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, said the political will was in place for the landmark visit.
"We've been told by some representatives of both governments that they want to see this visit take place," he told AFP.
"This kind of high-profile event is always profitable. The American business community supports this visit," he said, adding the trip could take place before the July 11 anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1995.
Three decades after the end of a disastrous war that claimed the lives of an estimated three million Vietnamese and 58,000 US troops, the two sides are slowly but surely laying to rest the ghosts that have haunted their relations.
On April 30, Vietnam will celebrate the 1975 fall of Saigon -- later renamed Ho Chi Minh City -- when communist forces overran the city, marking a definitive end to the conflict.
In the 30 years since, the two sides have been working hard at fostering economic ties. Imports and exports have grown dramatically since the two signed a bilateral trade agreement in 2000.
Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organisation is also on the agenda, something Hanoi has been urging the United States to help it secure as soon as possible.
However, Vietnam's lack of freedom of religion and political dissent has remained a thorn in the side of smooth relations.
Conservative forces in Hanoi are skeptical of US motives and critical of what they see as Washington's interference in Vietnam's internal affairs.
Last year the US administration placed Hanoi on a blacklist of "countries of particular concern" over its religious rights record -- a move that could in theory lead to sanctions.
While Washington has delayed any decision on the issue, any attempt to coerce Hanoi would go down very badly among the ruling communists.
"The visit depends very much on the question of human rights in Vietnam and US domestic policy," one insider in Hanoi said, asking not to be named.
Carl Thayer, an Australian Vietnam specialist from Johns Hopkins University in Massachusetts, said any visit could see a quid pro quo in which Hanoi secures progress in business negotiations in return for addressing some of Washington's key rights concerns.
"Beside the symbolism of marking the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the visit should signal Vietnam's willingness to respond to US concerns on human rights and religious freedom issues."
The question of a visit is not of "if" but "when", analysts say as they point to the impending visit to the United States by former ambassador to the US and now Deputy Foreign Minister Le Van Bang to secure the trip.
Khai's visit would reciprocate the November 2000 visit to Vietnam by then US president Bill Clinton.
It would also prepare the trip next year to Hanoi of US President George W. Bush, who is expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi.
For Thayer, the time is ripe for a new era. "This provides a major opportunity for Hanoi and Washington to clear the deck of current irritations."
Vietnam to privatise number-two mobile firm.
22 March 2005
HANOI, March 22 (Reuters) - Vietnam has approved a plan to sell nearly half of MobiFone, its second-largest provider of mobile phone services, this year as it speeds up its privatisation drive, state media reported on Tuesday.
The government last week ordered all agencies to submit by May a road map on privatising state-owned companies excluding those in the national security and defence areas, the Vietnam News daily cited a Prime Minister's directive as saying.
In a concrete move, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai approved the privatisation of Vietnam Mobile Telecommunication Services Co. (VMS) after it winds up a cooperation contract with Swedish firm Comvik on May 19, said a Vietnam News Agency report.
There was no immediate figure on the value of VMS as its evaluation will start later this year.
The Vietnam News Agency said the state would retain 51 percent of VMS, which is currently controlled by the unlisted Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Corp. (VNPT).
GSM technology-based MobiFone has more than 2.2 million cellphone subscribers, compared with 2.5 million who hooked up with unlisted Vinaphone, Vietnam's largest network and which is also run by an affiliate under the VNPT.
Vietnam had 4.96 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of 2004, a jump of 62 percent over the previous year, but industry officials said the potential for development was huge, given the country's population of 82 million.
More than 2,200 state-run companies have been privatised since 1992 but Vietnam's stock market has only 28 stocks after more than four years in operation. The government is keen to push through more measures to expand the capital market.
Last week, stock market regulators said they were amending regulations to allow local firms to list overseas by 2006, given a higher domestic demand for funds to achieve the country's economic growth target of 8.5 percent between 2004 and 2005.