Sat, Feb 03, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Chen tries to heal nuclear plant rift

FRONT LINE The president mediated two meetings yesterday between the premier and the speaker of the Legislative Yuan to try to solve the power plant dispute

By Lin Chieh-yu and Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTERS

New light was shed on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) dispute yesterday, as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the heads of the legislative and administrative branches engaged in intensive negotiations in the hope of finding a compromise.

The need to enact a new energy development law has become the main point of agreement between the two sides, though they differ on whether construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be resumed immediately or after the law is passed.

To try to solve the months-long deadlock over the issue, Chen yesterday finally intervened to coordinate negotiations between the Legislative Yuan and Executive Yuan in an informal meeting.

After two rounds of closed-door meetings between Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) earlier in the day, during which both sides revealed their proposals and bottom lines, Chen immediately invited Wang and Chang to his residence to discuss the possibility of a compromise.

The private meeting reached some agreements, including that the Cabinet would propose a new energy development law as soon as possible and submit it to the legislature for review, said a top aide to the president.

Only after the passage of the law will the Executive Yuan announce a resumption of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project, the aide said.

"Wang will bring the proposal back for discussions with the opposition alliance," said the aide, "and we believe that the opposition parties will accept the compromise."

The aide, however, declined to reveal further details of the president's private meeting, saying both sides still need to hammer out their bottom lines.

"Chen now has to remain neutral," the aide said. "The president will respect any final resolutions made by the two Yuans."

Meanwhile, both Chang and Wang said the gap between the legislative and administrative branches had been narrowed after several rounds of meetings.

"The distance between both Yuans is getting smaller and smaller," Wang said.

Chang made the first move by visiting Wang yesterday morning to relay the Executive Yuan's positions on the matter.

"I fully understand and take very seriously the resolution adopted by the legislature on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant," Chang said.

"We are glad that the legislature, in the foreword of its resolution, has stated that building a nuclear-free country is an ultimate goal," Chang added.

In addition, Chang proposed passing legislation to institutionalize referendums as a mechanism for solving disputes over aspects of major public policy.

Wang then relayed the Executive Yuan's positions to a meeting of leaders of opposition legislative caucuses. Wang made an afternoon return visit to Chang to convey the legislators' responses to Chang's proposals.

Wang said it was the unanimous position of the opposition coalition that the Executive Yuan should accept the legislature's Jan. 31 resolution that construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant be "resumed immediately."

"For the sake of political stability, economic development and the well-being of the people, the door for negotiations can be opened after the Executive Yuan has announced a resumption of the construction work," Wang said.

Wang also said the Executive Yuan should draft the energy development law and submit the bill to the legislature as soon as possible.

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