Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen makes surprise stopover in Libya

UNEXPECTED MOVE The president made a four-hour transit stop in Tripoli yesterday, where he was to discuss setting up a trade office with one of Muammar Qaddafi's sons

By Jewel Huang and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH STAFF WRITER AND CNA

In lieu of a transit in Abu Dhabi as Foreign Minister James Huang (黃志芳) had previously announced, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his entourage last night made a four-hour transit stop in Tripoli on their way back to Taipei at the invitation of Libyan authorities.

This was Chen's first visit to the African country, which does not have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The president was on his way back from the nation's diplomatic allies Paraguay and Costa Rica.

After a two-hour refueling stop in the Dominican Republic, Chen and his entourage arrived in Libya at 8:15pm Taipei time last night.

They were received by Saif Qaddafi, the third-eldest son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Chen and his entourage were scheduled stay in Tripoli for about four hours before flying directly to Taipei, where they are expected to land at CKS International Airport at noon today.

According to CNA, topics to be discussed during Chen's four-hour stay in Tripoli were to include setting up trade offices as well as pursuing cooperation on fisheries, tourism, petroleum and high-tech industries.

Taiwan had diplomatic relations with Libya from 1959 to 1978. It maintained a trade office there from 1980 until 1997 after Libya switched its diplomatic recognition to China.

The office was closed in 1997 because of pressure from China.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators have accused the government of providing the United Arab Emirates military and economic benefits in exchange for allowing Chen to make a stopover in Abu Dhabi, although Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials yesterday dismissed the allegation.

Meanwhile pro-independence groups were campaigning to mobilize at least 10,000 people at CKS airport to welcome Chen home.

"President Chen has endured the US' insults on the transit issue in order to accomplish diplomatic tasks and fight for Taiwan's international space," Taiwan Hand-in-Hand Alliance leader Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂) said yesterday.

"We think all the people should show their support for the president," he added.

Given that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is scheduled to return to Taipei around 10am from his trip to Singapore and Australia, there is some concern over the possibility of a clash between pan-green supporters welcoming the president and pan-blues welcoming Ma.

To express support for Chen's diplomatic efforts during his eight-day state visit to Latin America, the DPP yesterday issued a declaration at its weekly Central Standing Committee meeting urging all the people of Taiwan to back the president.

The declaration also stated that members of the party's Central Standing Committee would go to the airport to welcome the president home.

DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), will meet Chen at the airport, DPP spokesman Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday also urged the public to support the president.

"The president has been fighting so hard to maintain the country's dignity, despite the dangers involved. Everybody should back him up. However, I am disappointed that some politicians would criticize him for their own political purposes," Su said during the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.

Su said that Chen had called him on Monday afternoon and told him that he had talked to five presidents during his stay in Costa Rica, and that all of them had confirmed their firm friendship with Taiwan.

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