Vietnam, United States hold first meeting on Agent Orange research

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam and the United States held ''frank and serious'' talks about Agent Orange at their first official discussions on the defoliant used during the Vietnam War, Vietnam said Thursday.

At a five-day meeting in Singapore, which ended Friday, they discussed research on the effects of the defoliant on people and the environment, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry said.

The Vietnamese delegation was led by Deputy Minister of Science Technology and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen. The U.S. group was headed by Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

''We're optimistic that there will be further meetings,'' said Scott Weinhold, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.

Earlier this year, the United States promised to conduct joint research on the effects of the estimated 11 million gallons of defoliants, primarily Agent Orange, sprayed by U.S. planes between 1962-71 to destroy jungle cover for communist troops.

President Clinton, who visited Vietnam last month, promised give Vietnam a computer system with information on where U.S. forces stored or sprayed Agent Orange.

Vietnam's government estimates there are 1 million victims of Agent Orange among its 76 million people, including veterans and civilians.

No scientific evidence has yet been found of a direct link between dioxin - the toxic component in Agent Orange - and multiple health problems suffered by those exposed to it.

Studies have suggested that birth defects, miscarriages and other complications are uncommonly high in areas that were sprayed during the war.


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