Sat, Jan 06, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Chen transiting in US on way to Nicaragua

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will transit in the US twice during his travel to and from Nicaragua next week, the Presidential Office announced yesterday.

Following "smooth" negotiations with US authorities, Chen and his entourage will leave Taipei on Monday morning and stay overnight in San Francisco before continuing on to Nicaragua on Tuesday to attend Nicaraguan president-elect Daniel Ortega's inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) said.

Liu added that Chen would also transit in Los Angeles for a "very short time" on his way back from Nicaragua on Thursday.

Chen and a coterie of Cabinet officials and VIPs will celebrate the swearing-in of Ortega and vice president-elect Jaime Morales Carazo from Tuesday to Thursday, the Presidential Office said.

"The negotiations with the US regarding the transits went very smoothly despite some disruptions, including the holiday season and the passing of former US president Gerald Ford," Liu said at a Presidential Office press conference last night.

"We are very grateful to the US and Nicaraguan governments for making such a trip possible," she added.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Hou (侯清山) said the objective of Chen's state visit was "simple" -- to personally congratulate Ortega and strengthen Taiwan-Nicaragua relations.

"Taiwan has enjoyed warm relations with Nicaragua for six decades, and it is one of our staunchest allies in Latin America," Hou said.

Chen and his party will meet with a welcoming ceremony upon their arrival in Nicaragua on Tuesday and will participate in festivities that evening, Liu said.

"The inauguration ceremony and related events on Wednesday will occupy the president's schedule for that day," Hou said.

Liu said Chen looked forward to meeting with Taiwanese compatriots in the US, but that he would "respect US regulations and requests to Taiwan" on his transits.

As for who would accompany Chen on the state visit, Liu drew gasps from the press with her announcement that Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun had been invited to go.

"We also invited acting Taiwan Solidarity Union chairman Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉) to accompany Chen, but Lin refused, citing his role as a proxy leader of that party," Liu said.

When asked if Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) or former People First Party chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) had also been invited, Liu said no.

"Is he even in Taiwan?" Liu said, referring to Soong, who is said to be on vacation in the US.

Responding to questions on whether 200 Taiwanese businesspeople would also accompany Chen, Hou said only five or six business leaders would go, saying "it had been our hope that as many as 200 would go."

"Nicaragua had also hoped that many of our investors would accompany Chen," Hou said. "But we never stated that 200 business leaders would go."

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