Sat, May 13, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan, Libya ties not our business: US

TRIPOLI TOUR The US State Department said that Chen's visit to the north African state was Taipei's affair, while the president hailed it as a diplomatic breakthrough

CNA , WASHINGTON AND BATAM, INDONESIA

US relations with Libya have changed dramatically over the past few years after the North African nation gave up its weapons of mass destruction program, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Thursday.

It is a decision between Taiwan and Libya as to whether Taipei is developing a relationship with Libya, McCormack said.

McCormack made the remarks during a daily press briefing when asked if Washington has any concern over such a development, given that Libya is still on the US terrorist blacklist.

"Libya has taken some fundamental and important steps with respect to terror and with respect to weapons of mass destruction. They have given up their weapons of mass destruction program, and they have agreed to very intrusive inspections," he said.

"So the US-Libyan relationship is certainly one that is changing and has changed," he added.

On President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) refusal to stop over in the US during his latest Latin American visit, McCormack said he would not expect Chen's decision to have any impact on the US-Taiwan relationship.

"It was a decision that President Chen made not to stopover. He was offered transit both outgoing and returning home. He decided not to take us up on it," McCormack said.

Dissatisfied with the transit options -- Honolulu, Haiwaii, and Anchorage, Alaska, -- offered by the US government, Chen canceled his plans to stop over in the US both en route from Taipei to Paraguay last week and on his way home from Costa Rica this week.

Chen made a surprise stop in Libya on Wednesday via the Dominican Republic and was welcomed at the airport by Saif Qaddafi, son of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi.

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) said yesterday that years of low-profile-yet-intensive efforts in forging ties with Libya have finally borne fruit.

A jubilant Chen told reporters after he arrived on the Indonesian island of Batam during yet another surprise stopover that he was satisfied with the way he and his entourage were treated in Libya.

He said the Libya stopover was a "formal visit," not a transit stop.

It was Chen's first visit to Libya, which maintains formal diplomatic ties with China.

Chen's aides accompanying him on the trip later confirmed that Chen had held very amiable talks with President Qaddafi.

Huang said Chen's Libya visit didn't carry any political purpose.

"It was mainly aimed at promoting bilateral cooperation in trade and technological, petrochemical and tourism development," he said.

Huang said Libya could serve as a gateway for Taiwan's foray into the North African market.

Back in Taipei yesterday Chen hailed the diplomatic breakthrough with Libya, urging those who opposed Taiwan's interaction with the country not to judge Libya based on 20-years old impressions.

"Some people have formed their opinions of Libya based on the Libya and Qaddafi of 20 years ago," Chen said, "Actually following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, Libya was the first country to offer its support to the US and condemn global terrorism."

Libya has been welcomed by the Western world, the UN has lifted economic sanctions against it and US and British officials pay frequent visits now, Chen said.

Additional reporting by Chang Yun-ping

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