Kofi Annan meets Vietnamese leaders

The U.N. secretary-general visited the mausoleum of Vietnam's revolutionary leader and the ornate presidential palace Wednesday while visiting a nation that has overcome its war-torn past to build a fast-growing economy.

Annan met with government leaders on Vietnam's efforts to meet the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, which governments worldwide pledged to achieve by 2015. The goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, providing primary education to children and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Annan arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, from China as part of an Asian tour. His next stop is Thailand.

He visited the granite mausoleum holding the embalmed remains of the nation's founding president, Ho Chi Minh. A limousine with a motorcycle escort then took him to the nearby palace to meet President Tran Duc Luong, who praised the "excellent cooperation" between his country and the United Nations.

Talks on economic development and bird flu were also on the agenda.

Vietnam was hard-hit by the H5N1 bird flu virus, but mass poultry vaccinations and strong political will have slowed the spread of the virus. Vietnam has not reported any outbreaks in poultry since December and no human cases since November.

Jasper Morch, head of UNICEF's operations in Vietnam, praised Vietnam's economic development and said its leaders recognize that more must be done to alleviate poverty among ethnic minorities and people in remote areas.

Vietnam's economy grew 8.4 percent last year, the second-highest rate in the region after China. The developing nation seeks to enter the World Trade Organization before it hosts a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in November, reports the AP.

I.L.