Sat, May 13, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Low-ranking official sent to Haiti after China move

DPA , TAIPEI

Taiwan will send a vice foreign minister to Haitian president-elect Rene Preval's inauguration tomorrow after China blocked Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) from attending, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Huang Long-yuan (黃瀧元), as the envoy of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), will lead the delegation to attend Preval's inauguration," the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

"He will call on Haiti's interim President Boniface Alexandre and the new president Preval and attend Preval's inauguration," the statement said.

Haiti is one of 25 nations that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Haiti originally invited Chen to attend Preval's inauguration, but Chen decided to send Su as his envoy since he had to attend the inauguration of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Monday.

Two weeks ago, however, Preval told Taipei that it should send a lower-level official because of Chinese pressure.

The Chinese had threatened to veto an extension of the UN peacekeeping force's mandate in Haiti at the UN Security Council's session in August if Su attended, Preval said.

Taiwan has protested China's threat, but said it would send a lower-level official in order not to embarrass Haiti.

The government has called this incident its biggest diplomatic setback because it is the first time China had persuaded a diplomatic ally of Taiwan to deny entry to a Taiwanese leader.

Haiti has been in turmoil since 2004 when former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted. Since then, UN troops have been maintaining order in the destitute Carribean country.

In recent years, Beijing has stepped up its efforts to woo Taiwan's diplomatic allies into switching sides as well as blocking Taiwanese leaders from appearing on the world stage.

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