German foreign minister to visit Vietnam

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German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle left Berlin on Saturday on an eight-day trip to the Mideast and Asia, with a stopover in Vietnam, to boost Berlin's political and economic ties in the region.

On what is the minister's longest foreign tour to date, Westerwelle will be visiting Oman, India, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam before returning to Berlin a week from Sunday.

Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told a regular news conference that Westerwelle will meet members of the Vietnamese government and civil society representatives.

"We want to discuss how we can develop already close social and political ties," Peschke said.

The two countries last year celebrated 35 years of diplomatic ties.

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