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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 09:44 GMT
Agent Orange victims 'need help'
Duong Tien Thanh, in white jacket at background, gives physiotherapy to Le Trung Kien,12,  at the Thanh Xuan, Peace Village for handicapped children in Hanoi
Agent Orange is still being linked with birth defects
Vietnam's Red Cross has appealed for urgent help for victims of Agent Orange - the poisonous chemical dioxin used during the Vietnam War.

People affected by Agent Orange need help now and cannot wait years for more research, said the head of Vietnam's Red Cross, Professor Nguyen Trong Nhan.

He was speaking at the close of a scientific conference in Hanoi at which it was decided to set up a joint US-Vietnamese research committee.

Pham Xuan Yem, 47 (R), former North Vietnamese army soldier, sits next to his handicapped 25-year-old son, supposedly a victim of the chemical Agent Orange
The US says more research is needed
The committee will look into new areas of research - such as the nature and causes of birth defects in Vietnam, and ways to reduce exposure to dioxin in the environment.

Experts say dioxin is continuing to contaminate people 30 years after the US stopped spraying it over forests in south and central Vietnam.

But the BBC's Clare Arthurs says the US is reluctant to acknowledge any link between dioxin and people born with disabilities.

Cancer in rats

Rather than carrying out expensive tests to determine dioxin contamination, Professor Nhan said priority should be given to taking immediate steps to help victims.

Agent Orange was used to destroy jungle cover
"Anyone with a modest knowledge of science would know that these sort of toxic substances harm the human body and the environment," he said.

He said many Vietnamese had "died in bitterness" without compensation.

"So we can't keep silence any longer or wait for scientific evidence before making compensation," he said.

US forces sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange on Vietnam during the war that ended in 1975, to deny communist soldiers jungle cover.

The US stopped spraying in 1971 after it was discovered that it contained the most dangerous form of dioxin, TCDD, and caused cancer in rats.

Studies have shown that dangerous concentrations remain in some parts of Vietnam.

The four-day conference which ended in Hanoi on Wednesday helped establish the facts, said Professor Nhan

"The more evidence, the clearer and more undeniable the responsibility," he said.

See also:

03 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Agent Orange talks open in Vietnam
30 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Agent Orange hotspots located
03 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Deal reached on Agent Orange
15 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Agent Orange's toxic legacy
19 Nov 99 | Crossing Continents
Vietnam War poison
13 Jul 00 | Business
US and Vietnam enter new era
09 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Vietnam
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