WASHINGTON -- Ross Perot offered during the Vietnam War to "rebuild every destroyed school and hospital" in North Vietnam if Hanoi would free its U.S. prisoners, according to testimony he gave the Senate.
In a previously confidential deposition to the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs, Mr. Perot said communist North Vietnam's representatives were taken aback by the offer and never pursued it.
"Obviously, this just totally disconcerted the Vietnamese because they couldn't imagine that an individual could rebuild their schools and hospitals," he said. "But when you look at how primitive their schools and hospitals are, you literally could rebuild them for a tiny amount of money -- those few that had been destroyed by our bombs."
In the 315-page deposition -- a copy of which was released yesterday -- taken in Dallas on July 1, Mr. Perot, the billionaire businessman who rejoined the presidential race last week, offered no additional proof for his contention that Americans are still held in Southeast Asia. But he disclosed that the FBI told him in 1970 Hanoi had engaged the Black Panthers, a black militant organization, to assassinate him.
An FBI spokeswoman told the Associated Press that she knew nothing about such a warning to Mr. Perot.
Mr. Perot gave the deposition after refusing to testify before the committee last spring, saying the issue would be politicized because of his potential presidential bid. After he withdrew from the race July 16, Mr. Perot agreed to appear before the committee Aug. 1. The deposition was withheld until now because Mr. Perot asked that his comments be screened for secret or sensitive material.