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Vietnam Approves New Ministers - 2002-08-07

Vietnam's National Assembly has approved a new ministerial line-up after apparent last-minute maneuvering ousted the public security minister but kept the defense minister in place.

The National Assembly, once considered a rubber-stamp body, flexed its muscle, and pushed for changes in the cabinet lineup presented by the Communist Party Central Committee.

The 498-member National Assembly met Wednesday to vote on a new cabinet list, hammered out in talks with party leaders. The vote had been delayed since Monday, apparently because of debate among parliament members and the Central Committee.

In the end, Public Security Minister Le Minh Huong, who originally had been nominated by the Central Committee for another five-year term, was replaced by Le Hong Anh, head of the party's inspection committee.

Bringing an outsider to head the ministry comes as the government is copes with a scandal involving organized crime. Since December, more than 100 government officials, including two Central Committee members, have been suspended or jailed on suspicion of protecting jailed kingpin Nam Cam.

Another change to the Central Committee's original cabinet list was a decision to keep Defense Minister Phan Van Tra, who had been expected to retire. His restoration to the cabinet suggests that his designated replacement, Deputy Minister Nguyen Huy Hien, did not have enough support in the Assembly.

In an expected move, Trade Minister Vu Khoan was confirmed as one of three deputy prime ministers. It was an apparent reward for his successful negotiation of a landmark trade agreement with the United States.

However, another rising star in the Communist Party, Nguyen Minh Triet, was withdrawn as a candidate for deputy prime minister.

Mr. Triet, who is Communist Party secretary-general of Ho Chi Minh City, has been seen as a force behind a crackdown on organized crime.