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Le Duan Dies; Was Successor to Ho Chi Minh

July 10, 1986|Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand — Le Duan, who succeeded Ho Chi Minh in 1969 as Vietnam's most powerful leader, died today in Hanoi. He was 79.

The official Voice of Vietnam said Le Duan, who was secretary-general of the Vietnamese Communist Party, died after "a period of serious illness" but did not elaborate. Japan's Kyodo news service said he died of kidney disease.

The Vietnamese broadcast, monitored in Bangkok, called Le Duan's death "a great loss for our party and people" and announced five days of national mourning. It said a state funeral will be held Tuesday.

Le Duan was one of an aging generation of Vietnamese revolutionaries who fought the French and Japanese in their youth, founded a socialist state in North Vietnam after France's withdrawal in 1954 and then led a bloody but eventually victorious war against the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government.

He became party first secretary in 1960, and after Ho Chi Minh's death in 1969 became Vietnam's top leader. However, the highest post he attained was that of party secretary-general, and Ho's post of party chairman was kept vacant--either to prevent any single leader from becoming too powerful or to honor Ho's memory.

Unlike some of his revolutionary contemporaries, Le Duan cut a bland figure, apparently relying on iron will and administrative skill rather than charisma to reach the top.

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