Fri, May 24, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chen to jet off to Africa, plans to stop in Europe

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government sources told the Taipei Times yesterday that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will embark on July 4 for a visit to five African allies and that his itinerary would include transit stops in one or two European countries.

"This time, President Chen will focus on the African countries farthest away from Taiwan. He also hopes to achieve additional breakthroughs by making transit stops in European nations that do not hold formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan," one of the sources said.

During his 10-day trip from July 4, the president will travel to Senegal, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe in western Africa and Malawi and Swaziland in southern Africa.

The planned stopover in Europe is not necessarily for rest or diplomatic dealing. It arises from the need to transfer to a smaller plane, as the airports in some countries on his itinerary cannot accommodate large jets.

Presidential Office and foreign ministry officials refused to comment on which European country or countries would host the stopovers, citing security concerns and the need to avoid obstructionism by Beijing.

A senior adviser to the National Security Council, however, told the Taipei Times: "Originally the Presidential Office planned transit stops in a number of West European countries, but most of those countries pointed to the underlying difficulties of allowing such stops by the president," the source added.

"The president may therefore make a stopover in an Eastern European country instead," the source said.

"We believe that arrangement could work," he said.

The foreign ministry official also revealed that the itinerary for Vice President Annette Lu's visit to Europe in March to attend a meeting of Liberal International in Budapest, Hungary, including a stopover in Rome and a visit to the Vatican, had been the itinerary originally arranged for Chen.

"During Vice President Lu's stopover in Rome, she enjoyed a reception normally reserved by the Italian government for foreign heads of state, including tight security measures and traffic controls," the official added.

The trip will be the third overseas tour of Chen's presidency.

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