Former Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, 85, an economic reformer who led the Communist nation away from poverty and isolation and backed normalizaton of U.S. ties, has died.

Mr. Kiet, prime minister from 1991 to 1997, died Wednesday at a Singapore hospital, where he was taken Saturday after suffering a stroke, government officials said.

As prime minister, he helped craft policies that attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment, vastly expanded trade, and enabled the economy to grow at an annual rate of better than 8 percent.

Although his first wife and two children were said to have been killed by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, Mr. Kiet was a firm supporter of normalizing relations with the United States, which was finally achieved in 1995.

He supported moves to privatize much state industry, enact clearer laws, and end special privileges for army and party leaders.

He stepped down in 1997 at age 74, saying the country needed younger leaders. But he remained active in the country's affairs. - AP