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The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Hanoi
"The most powerful job in the country's political system"
 real 56k

Sunday, 22 April, 2001, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Modernising leader for Vietnam
Party poster
All eyes are on the future course of party policy
The Vietnamese Communist Party has appointed a key moderniser, Nong Duc Manh, as its new secretary-general, the country's most powerful leadership post.

Mr Manh, currently chairman of the National Assembly, replaces 70-year-old Le Kha Phieu, who has been forced to step down.

We will have younger blood in the leadership. Of course we need that

Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien
Mr Manh, 61, is the country's first secretary-general with no direct experience of Vietnam's long wars for independence.

In his first news conference as party leader, he said he wanted Vietnam to be an industrialised country by the year 2020. He also promised to crack down on corruption.

The announcement of his promotion came on the fourth and final day of the Communist Party Congress in Hanoi.

Nong Duc Manh
Mr Manh presents a more modern image
"We must fight against negativeness - especially bureaucracy, corruption and wastefulness," Mr Manh told delegates.

He told reporters he had been elected by secret ballot and there had been more than one candidate.

Ethnic Tay

Mr Manh, a trained engineer, is the first secretary-general with a university degree.

He started his official life in provincial government, before joining the politbureau at the seventh Party Congress in 1991.

Those who are seeking political and economic reform in Vietnam will be hoping that he can deliver

Huong Phan
BBC Vietnamese service
A member of the Tay minority, Mr Manh's first taste of high office was as head of the party committee for nationalities, where he fashioned ethnic policy.

Analysts say his expertise in this regard may stand him in good stead following recent violent unrest among Vietnam's central hill tribes.

Otherwise, they see him as something of a dark horse politically, but one who presents a much more modern image for the party.

He is well-dressed and articulate, and has visited the United States once - in stark contrast to the man he replaces, who had never travelled abroad when he came to power.

"Mr Manh certainly comes from the professional, rather than the ideological side of the party," says the BBC's Huong Phan.

'Son of Ho Chi Minh'

Speculation persists in many quarters that Mr Manh is the illegitimate son of Vietnam's revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh.

His mother is believed to have been the leader's servant for a time.

Asked to comment on the rumours, Mr Manh said his parents had died when he was very young.

Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, when Mr Manh was 29 years old.

The new secretary-general did add cryptically, however, that all Vietnamese people were children of the leader.

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See also:

17 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam prepares for change at top
19 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Communist snub to Clinton
18 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam 'troublemakers' face prosecution
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