SOUTHEAST Asia's second largest Catholic state moved last night to shore-up its relations with the Vatican, but stopped short of denials that it had rejected appointments from Rome. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ho The Lan said Hanoi and the Vatican had yet to agree on 'certain issues' during the recent tour of Monsignor Claudio Celli, deputy head of the Vatican's Foreign Ministry. 'The Vietnamese Government and the Vatican have agreed that the appointments of the Vietnamese church will be carried out . . . after holding discussions and reaching agreement with the Vietnamese Government,' Madam Lan said. Some 18 bishops and one cardinal had already been accepted. 'It is a considerable number demonstrating the . . . the principle of mutual respect and respect for the sovereignty and independence of Vietnam,' Madam Lan said, denying any fresh problems. 'We will continue considerations and discussions on other occasions.' Despite frequent exchanges, the Vatican resists Vietnam's insistence that all religions - including seven million Catholics - ultimately come under state control. The country has eased restraints in recent years, but stipulates all groups must sit under the Fatherland Front, a Communist Party controlled-body. Reports of the four rejections come despite premier Vo Van Kiet offering an olive branch to the church at Christmas. In a meeting with the new Vatican appointment, Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, Mr Kiet said the Government would create more conditions for Catholics to practice their faith and contribute to the national development. US human rights groups claim that at least 100 Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist leaders remain imprisoned.