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Ho Chi Minh to get facelift

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HANOI, Vietnam (Reuters) -- Communist Vietnam is giving the hometown of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh a facelift in the hopes of making it a bigger draw for tourists.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has approved the project to conserve Kim Lien village, the central Vietnam birthplace of the president who died in 1969 at 79.

"This is a cultural and historical site, well known not only in Nghe An province but around the country, and is an attraction for domestic and international tourists," a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said.

The ministry was responding to a question from Reuters after the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine's October 23 edition said Vietnam would spend $20 million to spruce up the founding father's birthplace. The ministry did not confirm the figure.

The ministry said part of the project would also "promote socio-economic development and eradicate poverty" in the area.

Ho, born Nguyen Tat Thanh, successfully led the northern communists to victory over the American-backed Saigon government and before that against the French. He remains a revered figure in Vietnam, which jealously guards his image and reputation.

A book published last year saying Ho may have had romantic liaisons was criticized by the government which suppressed distribution of copies of a magazine reviewing of the publication. Ho never married.

The former president lies embalmed in a tomb in capital city Hanoi that is a popular tourist site and typically on the list of ceremonial events for visiting foreign leaders.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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