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1973: Nixon orders ceasefire in Vietnam

President Nixon has ordered a halt to American bombing in North Vietnam following peace talks in Paris.

The decision comes after Dr Henry Kissinger, the president's assistant for National Security Affairs, returned to Washington yesterday from France with a draft peace proposal.

Representatives from North and South Vietnam and the United States have been at the negotiating table and reports from Paris say progress has been made with compromises on all sides.

But many political issues remain to be resolved.

Although attacks against the North have been halted, air assaults are continuing against communist forces in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Three-hour discussions

Communist negotiators in Paris are now calling for the ceasefire to be extended to these areas.

President Nixon's special envoy to Saigon, General Alexander Haig, is in the South Vietnamese capital briefing the president on the 25 article peace agreement worked out in Paris.

Initial discussions with President Nguyen Van Thieu lasted nearly three hours.

Afterwards, the president ordered a five-man delegation to fly to France to consider the proposals in more detail.

Reaction in Washington has been cautious.

Senator Barry Goldwater, who previously supported the American role in Vietnam, said: "I can't say peace is at hand, but I feel that we're making progress."

The Daily Telegraph correspondent in Saigon says President Thieu may feel it is unwise "to jeopardise further American support by holding out against an agreement which Washington considers just".

In Context
A week later, Dr Kissinger returned to Paris for further meetings with the North Vietnamese delegation.

On 23 January, a ceasefire was agreed to take effect from midnight on 27 January.

The settlement called for the eventual reunificiation of Vietnam, permitted the South Vietnamese and Vietcong troops to remain in place and provided for the release of all American prisoners of war within 60 days - on condition American troops withdrew within the same period of time.

No mention was made of the presence of North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam.

It spelled the end of American involvement in the Vietnam war - which had begun on 12 February 1955. American statistics published by the US Defence Department in January showed the cost in human terms:

The last American prisoner was freed on 30 March, 1973.

Vietnam was finally reunited on 30 April 1975.


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