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Vietnam's Communist Congress to Vote on Leadership

Vietnam's ruling Communist Party opened its congress Tuesday with plans to tackle corruption, chart economic reforms and reshape the party's leadership.

72-year-old President Tran Duc Luong and 68-year-old Prime Minister Phan Van Khai are expected to announce their retirement. The future of the party's general secretary Nong Duc Manh is also in question.

Delegates are to discuss plans for boosting economic growth and integrating Vietnam into the global economy. A government corruption scandal, however, could overshadow optimistic forecasts for Southeast Asia's fastest growing economy.

Vietnam's transport minister resigned recently after ministry officials were accused of embezzling millions of dollars in state funds.

The general secretary Tuesday blamed party members for the problems and said corruption is a threat to the very survival of the government.

Officials at the weeklong congress will debate how fast the country should move to privatize state-owned enterprises.

Nong Duc Manh, the general secretary, criticized the party for failing to help the economy grow as rapidly as possible -- even though Vietnam has averaged a strong seven-point-five-percent growth rate over the past five years.

Decisions on the new leadership and the results of elections for the party's Central Committee will be announced at the end of the congress next Tuesday.