Sat, Jan 26, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Wu says Chen meeting above board

NOTHING TO SEE The KMT chairman admitted meeting the president, but denied he had done so to secure an under-the-table deal over the formation of the next Cabinet

By Mo Yan-chih and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) yesterday confirmed he met with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Thursday morning, but denied that any "secret" negotiations had taken place.

The meeting touched upon matters such as the UN bid referendums, the formation of the new Cabinet and the reorganization of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Wu said.

"It was not a secret meeting. I expressed the KMT's positions on the issues during the meeting," he said at a press conference at KMT headquarters.

During the meeting at the Taipei Guest House, Wu said Chen asked his opinion about possible candidates to succeed outgoing Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄).

However, Wu said he had not negotiated with Chen and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on the matter.

"The DPP has formed seven Cabinets in seven years, but it has never consulted with the KMT on the matter. I told the president that the KMT is not interested in discussing candidates with the DPP," he said.

In response to party members' concerns that the meeting was a "trap" set by the DPP, Wu said he had accepted Chen's invitation in order to discuss the political situation, adding that it was "perfectly normal" for the president to meet with the leader of the opposition.

"I am not an idiot and I am not inexperienced. It's unnecessary to avoid meeting with the DPP or Chen ... I didn't feel I was being set up," he said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and KMT caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) also attended the meeting, Wu said, adding that he had not deviated from what he had agreed upon with KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

"What I said during the meeting was consistent with what we have discussed at the KMT, but of course Ma doesn't have to know my every move," he said.

Prior to the press conference, Wu had separately explained the meeting to reporters in Kaohsiung and Taichung.

Wu said he had also urged Chen to reshuffle the CEC, which he described as "biased" and "unfair," immediately after the formation of the new Cabinet.

Wu said he may agree to meet with Chen again if the president showed sufficient sincerity.

When approached for comment yesterday, Ma said he had no advance knowledge of the meeting between Wu and Chen. He said he was comfortable, however, that Wu had not deviated from the agreed KMT line.

"I didn't know about the meeting [beforehand], but I trust Chairman Wu. What he said at the meeting did not differ from what we've discussed during central standing committee meetings," Ma said.

Earlier yesterday, Wang said the media should not have described the meeting as "secret."

He said the public should give Wu credit for meeting with Chen for the sake of national stability.

Wang said the nation needed mutual trust between politicians if it was to make a new start, adding that the public should trust in Wu's experience and judgment.

However, he dismissed media speculation that he had helped organize the meeting.

Outgoing KMT Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩), who lost on the New Party ticket in the legislative elections, said she was concerned that the meeting could have a negative effect on Ma's performance in the presidential election.

"The thing people hated most about the KMT in the past was its penchant for secrecy and `black gold' politics,'" Lei said "It would be a tremendous blow for the nation if the KMT resumed its backroom politics and under-the-table deals even before returning to power."

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