Tue, Apr 01, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Minister of foreign affairs says offers of humanitarian aid to Iraq are genuine

DIPLOMACY Eugene Chien denied any suggestion that the government's hopes of setting up a diplomatic mission in Baghdad were linked to pledges of money

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government's support for the US-led war in Iraq is unrelated to any attempts to set up a representative office in Baghdad after the war, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said yesterday.

The comment came in response to questions from opposition lawmakers in the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee on whether the government's support for the US-led attack on Iraq involved any trade-offs between Taipei and Washington.

"To my knowledge, the national security branch [of the government] has not forged any deals with the US side," Chien said.

When asked if the foreign ministry had plans to set up a representative office in Baghdad once a pro-US government was installed there, Chien said: "It's too early to say."

But the foreign minister said he didn't rule out contacts with Baghdad if both sides' interests overlap.

He said the foreign ministry always sought to set up new representative offices in countries that did not officially recognize Taiwan, should opportunities arise.

But he said Taiwan's support for the US-led war in Iraq was based on the country's backing of the wider war against terror and had nothing to do with the ministry's efforts to set up a new representative office in Baghdad.

Regarding the government's promised humanitarian aid to Iraq, Chien said so far the US government had not come up with the exact amount of money that it hoped Taipei would contribute to the relief effort.

But Chien said the ministry expected that the implementation of large-scale humanitarian aid would not occur until next year.

Chien, however, declined to respond directly to a question from KMT Legislator Kwan Yuk-noan (關沃暖) on what amount of aid Taiwan could afford.

The government has launched a joint campaign with the private sector to collect donations for humanitarian aid for Iraq.

In a meeting with more than 20 non-governmental organizations, ministries and air and sea transportation representatives last Friday, the foreign ministry said the government would collect the money in a fund called "Love from Taiwan."

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