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U.S. officials hold high-level talks with Vietnamese


NEW YORK -- The Clinton administration held its first high-level meeting with Vietnam yesterday in what Vietnamese officials hope may be a prelude to a quick lifting of the U.S. trade embargo against Hanoi.

In a session that was not announced, Assistant Secretary of State William Clark and other U.S. officials met in Washington for talks with Vietnam's outgoing ambassador to the United Nations, Trinh Xuan Lang.

A Vietnamese official said that Winston Lord, who is awaiting confirmation as President Clinton's assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, also participated in the talks with the Vietnamese ambassador, but the State Department would not confirm this.

Clinton administration officials are believed to be trying to work out their policy toward Vietnam and a possible lifting of the long-standing U.S. trade embargo within the next six weeks.

They are facing a deadline of late April, when the International Monetary Fund is scheduled to decide whether to take steps toward resuming a long-frozen lending program to Vietnam.

Last fall, the Bush administration took several steps toward normalization of relations with Vietnam, after getting what U.S. officials considered to be unprecedented help from Hanoi in identifying Americans who had been listed as missing in action since the Vietnam War.

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