Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen stops overnight in Indonesia

SURPRISE DETOUR The president's return was delayed after he made an unexpected stop in Batam, where he was expected to `sightsee and visit friends'

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian is welcomed by Saif Qaddafi, the third-eldest son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, at the airport in Tripoli yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday made yet another surprise stop on his way back from a state visit to Latin America, this time in Batam, Indonesia, delaying his arrival in Taipei until this afternoon.

Chen had originally planned to return home at noon yesterday, but instead landed at the resort island of Batam at 3:15pm yesterday and remained there overnight.

Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

It marked the second time Chen has visited Indonesia. Last October, Chen was forced to land in Bali before returning from a 12-day trip to nations in Central America, the Caribbean and the Middle East because Typhoon Longwang caused the temporary closure of airports in Taiwan.

Asked whether there would be any more surprises, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) yesterday repeated that Chen and his entourage would leave Batam at 11am today and arrive in Taipei at 3:30pm.

Lu said Chen would sightsee and visit friends while in Batam, but declined to say who he would meet.

Lu said the reason for the stop in Batam was because it is a fast developing area and seemed a sound investment location.

Chen's eight-day state visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica has been full of surprises.

He had originally planned to make transit stops in Anchorage, Alaska on the way to and from Latin America, but instead made surprise stopovers in four non-allied countries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) had said in Paraguay that they had "used up all the bullets" on their way there and that Anchorage would be the only choice of stopover on the way home. He later announced that Chen would instead return through the Dominican Republic and Abu Dhabi. But, the president's plane then made a surprise stop in Tripoli, Libya on Wednesday and Batam yesterday.

During Chen's eight-hour stay in Tripoli, Lu said both sides agreed to establish trade offices and the Libyan government announced that it would offer visa-free privileges to Taiwanese visitors.

Talks also covered cooperation on fisheries, tourism, petroleum and high-tech industries.

Chen was welcomed by Saif Qaddafi, the third-eldest son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, at the airport, but Lu yesterday refused to say whether Chen had met Muammar Qaddafi.

Chen yesterday said the stop in Libya had been an official visit rather than a stopover and that he was very happy with the treatment the Libyan government had extended to him.

Chen's postponed return did not dampen the enthusiasm of pro-independence groups, who yesterday mobilized about 2,000 people at CKS airport to welcome Chen home, according to the Democratic Progressive Party.

Holding banners reading "A-bian [Chen's nickname] toughen up, retrieve Taiwan's dignity" and "Safeguard Taiwan's dignity, Taiwan go, go, go," some said they had left home at 5am and spent hours on the road.

also see stories:

US Congress members defend Chen

Opposition calls Tripoli stop an error

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