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Bush Discusses Trade, Human Rights with Vietnam's PM

President Bush has met at the White House with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the wide-ranging talks covered issues from trade to human rights.

As they posed for pictures after their talks, both men chose their public words carefully.

They said they discussed their desire to strengthen bilateral relations, boost trade and work together on issues such as the environment.

President Bush said he also used the opportunity to bring up human rights concerns.

"We talked about the freedoms: religious and political freedom," he said. "And I told the prime minister that I thought the strides the government is making towards religious freedom are noteworthy."

Human rights organizations and Vietnamese-American groups had called on the president to make human rights a priority in the talks. Critics in Congress hosted a news conference just prior to the prime minister's visit in which they warned the status quo in Vietnam is not acceptable.

For his part, the prime minister made no mention of human rights concerns in his statement at the end of the White House meeting. Instead, he said the United States and Vietnam are building a constructive and friendly partnership. He said new consultative groups are being established. And he made specific mention of efforts to heal the decades old wounds left by the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s.

"I also agreed to strengthen cooperation to address humanitarian issues left over from the war, such as the American MIA issue, mine clearing, remediation of the agent orange consequences, the Vietnamese MIA issue," he explained.

President Bush last met the Vietnamese Prime Minster in 2006, when he traveled to Hanoi to attend a summit meeting of Pacific Rim nations.