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The BBC's Matt Frei in Ho Chi Minh
"It's the American way of life that seems to be winning Vietnam's soul"
 real 56k

The BBC's Owen Bennet-Jones in Hanoi
"Americans have described the visit as a huge success"
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Sunday, 19 November, 2000, 09:42 GMT
Communist snub to Clinton
Crowds in Ho Chi Minh City welcome Mr Clinton
Vietnam's Communist Party general-secretary has injected a note of acrimony into the atmosphere of reconciliation surrounding President Clinton's historic visit to the country.

It has emerged that when he met Mr Clinton on Saturday, Le Kha Phieu spoke of his country's former occupation by "imperialists" and asked why the US had invaded Vietnam.

US officials say the party leader's trenchant defence of socialism and his attack on imperialism contrasted strongly with the comments made by the Vietnamese president and prime minister, who have focused on the integration of Vietnam into the world economy.

During his visit, Mr Clinton has made a series of statements calling for reconciliation.

Mr Clinton and his wife Hillary
Mr Clinton pledged to bring fallen heroes home
He is currently in Ho Chi Minh City - the former South Vietnamese capital, Saigon - where he is meeting local and American business leaders.

He is expected to highlight the opportunities for both countries from a recent bi-lateral trade agreement, which the US Congress is expected to ratify early next year.

'Respect our choices'

Mr Phieu, regarded as Vietnam's most powerful figure, said: "We respect the choice, the lifestyle and political systems of other nations. We in turn demand that other nations respect other people's choices."

The US Secretary of State asked me whether socialism would continue to exist. I replied that it would not only exist but further develop

Le Kha Phieu
However, he added: "The fact that nations have different political systems does not prevent co-operation for mutual development, if they have respect for each other's national independence and sovereignty and do not interfere in each other's internal affairs."

In a speech carried live on television on Friday, Mr Clinton gently urged Hanoi to strengthen human rights, open up its political system and liberalise its economy.

President's tears

Ahead of his meeting with business leaders, Mr Clinton urged the country's younger generation to take full advantage of the economic reforms introduced by Vietnam's communist leadership.

Mr Clinton is also reported to have met the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Pham Minh Man, to discuss restrictions on religion in Vietnam. The meeting was held in private, reports said.

Mr Clinton with excavated remains of a US serviceman's plane
He was given a rousing welcome by huge crowds outside the old presidential palace in Ho-Chi Minh City.

It was there that North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates to seal their side's victory over the American-backed southern regime in 1975.

'Fallen heroes'

The president had arrived from Hanoi, where he had spent much of the second day of his visit focusing on issues relating to the war.

He visited a site where an American bomber plane crashed during the Vietnam War and pledged to "bring every possible fallen hero home".

War and peace
1964: US backs south as Vietnam war starts
1975: Humiliation as US troops pull out of Saigon
1995: Diplomatic relations restored
March 2000: US Defence Secretary, William Cohen visits Vietnam
November 2000: President Clinton in Hanoi
Mr Clinton, struggling to hold back tears, said: "Whether we are American or Vietnamese, I think we all want to know where our loved ones are buried."

Washington spends $100m a year on finding out what happened to the 1,498 American servicemen who went missing during the war.

The US leader also visited an exhibition on land mine victims, where he said that the USA would do more to clear the land of mines and make it safe.

In his unprecedented live broadcast on Vietnamese television on Friday, the US leader paid tribute to the dead on both sides of the Vietnam War.

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See also:

17 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Clinton's Vietnam visit
17 Nov 00 | Media reports
Vietnam looks beyond war
14 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam denies suppressing religion
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