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Secretary of State James A. Baker III met his counterpart from Vietnam Saturday, taking a step toward normalizing relations severed since the Vietnam War.

They were the highest-level talks between the two countries since the war ended in April 1975.Vietnam's foreign minister, Nguyen Co Thach, promised that his country will withdraw all its military advisers from Cambodia, but he provided no timetable for the withdrawal.

Baker offered to lift the travel restrictions on Vietnamese diplomats, which limit them to a 25-mile radius of New York City, so they can meet in Washington with relatives of Americans missing in Vietnam.

A senior State Department official said ``it would be fair to say' that the talks are a step toward normalizing relations.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said restoration of relations would depend on Vietnam's cooperation on two issues: resolving the war in Cambodia and providing ``a full accounting' of Americans missing since the Vietnam War.

The official said progress on the Cambodian issue hinges on the signature of a peace treaty in Paris by the parties to end the conflict, and the implementation of a U.N. peace plan in which U.N. administrators would run major Cambodian government ministries until new elections are held.

Vietnam, which invaded Cambodia in 1978, has withdrawn all or most of its 140,000 troops from Cambodia, western intelligence officials believe.

On the POW-MIA issue, the State Department official said Thach would go to Washington to meet with Gen. John Vesey, President Bush's special emissary on the issue, and with Anne Griffiths, head of the National League of Families of Missing Americans.

Progress on that issue will depend on the outcome of that meeting, which will be planned in the next few days, the official said.

``We would certainly want progress on Cambodia and POW-MIA to be matched by progress in the (U.S.-Vietnam) relationship,' he said.

The private meeting with Baker followed a series of three sessions this summer between Vietnam's U.N. ambassador and State Department officials.

A crowd of several hundred boisterous anti-communist protesters rallied outside the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where the meeting was held.

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