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US won't compensate Vietnam's Agent Orange victims: official

AFP | June 6 2006

The United States won't compensate Vietnam's Agent Orange victims but will offer advice on dealing with the wartime defoliant, a US official said, during a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

When Rumsfeld met Defence Minister Pham Van Tra and military officials, the Vietnamese side had raised the issue of dioxin exposure and contamination from Agent Orange, the senior official said on the sidelines of the visit.

"What we can do is make scientific information available, historical archival information we might have, ... technical advice on how to deal with the situation," the official said.

"We're ready to do more. We agreed to sit down at the expert level and see what we can do," he said.

US forces widely sprayed Agent Orange, which contained the lethal chemical dioxin, in southern Vietnam during the conflict to deprive enemy guerrillas of forest cover and destroy food crops.

Vietnam says millions of its people have suffered a range of illnesses and birth defects as a result of the use of the chemical.

A New York court last year rejected a Vietnamese lawsuit against US chemical giants Monsanto and Dow Chemical, who manufactured the herbicide during the war. The Vietnamese side has appealed.

In April, visiting US Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson was pressed by Vietnamese journalists on why the United States compensates its own veterans for health defects linked to the chemical, but not Vietnam's.

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