Sun, Jan 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Analysts see scant hope for passage of arms bill

CNA , TAIPEI

The disputed arms procurement bill is not likely to be passed by the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan in the near term, according to political observers.

Analysts said they see no signs that the bill will clear the legislature any time soon, although the pan-blue camp of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) maintains only a slight majority over the "pan-green camp" of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU).

At the legislature's final budget screening session on Thursday, the pan-blue alliance engineered a vote to axe all of the funds in the Ministry of National Defense's (MND) 2006 budget plan related to the long-stalled US arms procurement package. The Sixth Legislative Yuan's second legislative session ended on Friday, and the next session will open next month.

With its slim majority in the legislature's Procedure Committee, the pan-blue camp has blocked the arms package from being put onto the legislative agenda for full-house deliberation more than 40 times since mid-2004.

Political analysts predicted that disputes centering on the arms procurement bill will continue into the next legislative secession despite the fact that the MND has substantially trimmed the planned budget for the purchase of eight diesel-electric submarines, three Patriot PAC-III anti-missile batteries and 12 P-3C anti submarine airplanes from the US.

The MND has also agreed to have only the submarines financed by a special budget bill, while incorporating the funds needed for the two other items into its regular annual budget.

Given the protracted and hostile standoff between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, political observers said that the fate of the arms procurement bill will remain uncertain when the next legislative session opens next month.

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