Wed, May 03, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen may postpone departure due to haggling with US

By Chang Yun-ping and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who was scheduled to leave today to visit the nation's diplomatic allies in Central and South America, is likely to postpone his departure due to last-minute wrangling with Washington over where Chen will make his transit stops in the US, Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) said yesterday.

Chen was supposed to depart today on a 10-day trip to Paraguay and Costa Rica, with transit stops in the US. But as of press time yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was still embroiled in talks with the US over where Chen will be allowed to stop to refuel his chartered airplane.

"We don't rule out the possibility of postponing the departure date," Huang said, adding that Chen would leave this afternoon at the earliest.

The foreign minister dis-missed speculation that Chen might be denied the right to touch down in the US, saying "it's impossible that the US will deny us [the right] to refuel or make transit stops in the US."

"It's just that there are still some details we have to iron out with the US," he said.

Chen is scheduled to arrive in Paraguay on Friday for a state visit and will travel on from there to Costa Rica, where he will attend president-elect Oscar Alias' inauguration ceremony on Monday.

The Presidential Office yesterday refused to confirm or deny rumors that Chen would be allowed to refuel but not to get out of his plane during his transit stopovers in the US.

"I hope the media stops speculating," Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said. "I promise you that the president will conduct the trip smoothly and the duration of the trip will remain the same."

In 1994, the US forced former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to stay overnight on his plane during his transit stop in Hawaii en route to Costa Rica. To express his discontent with that treatment, Lee received then AIT chairman Nat Bellocchi on the plane in pajamas.

Chen is planning to stay in Paraguay and Costa Rica for two nights each and spend one night in the US each way for transit stops.

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