Tue, May 30, 2006 - Page 2 News List

US explained transit `leak': MOFA

DIPLOMACY The foreign minister was referring to the president's failed attempt to transit through Lebanon last month, after information about his plan was released

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday said the US had offered an explanation -- after Taiwan lodged a protest -- for "internal negligence" that led to the "leaking" of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan to transit through Lebanon during a recent diplomatic trip.

Huang made the remarks while reporting on Chen's recent trip to Latin America during a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday.

He also said that "a new mindset and approach was adopted" when making arrangements for transit stops for Chen's visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica, two of the nation's allies in Latin America.

Displeased with Washington's refusal to grant the government's initial request for stopovers in New York or San Francisco, and restrictions that Washington placed on its offer of a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska, Chen decided to transit through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Netherlands on his way to Paraguay, and in the Dominican Republic, Libya and Indonesia on his return trip from Costa Rica.

Huang said the decision to bypass stopovers in the US "kept the United States from being embarrassed," adding that the trip had made breakthroughs, in that the president stopped in countries with which Taiwan has no formal diplomatic relations.

During Chen's stopover in Libya, he talked with the top leaders there and reached a consensus on setting up mutual representative offices, Huang said.

Noting that the US announced a full resumption of diplomatic relations with Libya and had removed the country from its list of terrorist nations on May 15, Huang said that this had vindicated Taiwan's judgment.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) said during the committee meeting yesterday that Chen had met with a man wanted by Interpol earlier this year when the president hosted the son of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi, Saif al-Islam, during a visit to Taiwan.

The man, Iskandar Safa, was allegedly a member of Qaddafi's entourage and met Chen in the Presidential Office.

Su said he suspected that Chen's stopovers in the UAE and Libya were rooted in his dealings with Safa.

Safa is also wanted by France in connection with an arms sale scandal involving top French government officials, Su said.

According to Su, Safa is stateless, traveling to and from only Taiwan, UAE and Libya due to an international warrant for his arrest.

Safa is originally from Lebanon, and gained notoriety as an arms dealer, the legislator said.

Su also said he believed that Chen's stopover in the UAE was made possible by Taiwan's proposed purchase of swimmer delivery vehicles, or mini-submarines, from the UAE, facilitated by Safa, and that kickbacks to high-level Taiwanese officials in connection with that deal were likely.

Su offered no evidence to support his claims.

In response, ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) last night said Safa was not listed on Interpol's "red notice," though it was true that he is on France's wanted list over his alleged involvement in a French arms-sale scandal.

Lu said that Taiwan is going to great efforts to develop ties with Middle Eastern countries, and that this did not rely on just one person.

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