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Agent Orange Still Haunts Vietnam, US

Vietnam says up to 3 million of its 84 million people have birth defects or other health problems related to dioxin. The United States says the number is much lower and that more scientific study is needed to prove a link to Agent Orange.

The U.S. compensates American war veterans who say they were exposed to Agent Orange if they have certain health problems that have been linked to the herbicide.

A lawsuit seeking compensation from Agent Orange manufacturers, filed by the Vietnam Agent Orange Victims Association, is to be heard by a U.S. appeals court on Monday.

Ambassador Marine said in an interview that the U.S. does not plan to provide direct compensation. But he noted that, on top of the $3 million Congress approved, Washington has spent $43 million since 1989 helping Vietnamese with disabilities, regardless of their causes.

"I think we've made progress in the last couple of years in our joint work to try to understand this issue better and find a constructive way of dealing with it," Marine said.

Some of the U.S. money could go toward caring for people such as Nguyen Thi Trang Ngan, 17.

Ngan's mother, Nguyen Thi Thuy Lieu, grew up next to the base and used to enter it regularly to get candy from the U.S. troops. The family fished in Lotus Lake and drank water from a nearby well.

Now her daughter can't speak, sit up, walk, feed herself or get dressed. She makes strange, uncontrolled grunting sounds and sucks her thumb.

"War always brings suffering," her mother said. "I don't blame anyone for it. This is my fate."

Sometimes, when she comforts Ngan, her daughter laughs. "That's my greatest happiness," Lieu said.

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© 2007 The Associated Press