Thu, Aug 23, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Chen gets warm welcome in Honduras

`BEST FRIEND' Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales said that his country supported Taiwan's UN bid and would continue to support de jure independence

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TEGUCIGALPA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) arrived in Honduras on Tuesday on the first leg of his nine-day visit to Central America, pledging to help Honduras build a US$300 million hydroelectric power station.

After a nearly 20-hour flight with a stopover in Alaska, Chen and his entourage arrived at the Palmerola military airport in Comayagua, Honduras, on Tuesday afternoon.

Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales welcomed Chen at the airport with full military honors and a 21-gun salute.

Describing Taiwan as Honduras' "best friend," Zelaya said that his country supported Taiwan's application to join the UN and would always support its efforts to have its independence recognized and join international organizations.

"We will never forget a country that comes to our aid at a time of need," Zelaya said. "Our countries share common values, respect human rights and believe all countries are equal. I'd like to emphasize that we support Taiwan and hope it will become a member of the United Nations as soon possible."

Honduras respects international law, Zelaya said, adding that it would keep its promise and cherish its long-standing friendship with Taiwan.

Zelaya made the remarks while addressing a press conference held after his two-hour meeting with Chen at the Presidential Office.

The two reached an 11-point consensus, in which they agreed to launch a learning program for children. Chen also agreed to look into helping Honduras build a cable car system at one of its tourist attractions and a power station.

Ambassador to Honduras John Lai (賴建中) said that the power station would be a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project and would take five years to build.

The state-run Taiwan Power plans to start construction in 2009 if the land acquisition, relocations and environmental assessment go smoothly, he said.

Chen said his trip had two purposes: to visit Honduras at the invitation of Zelaya and to attend the sixth annual summit of leaders of the country's Latin American allies.

Chen said that he hoped to exchange views with Zelaya on various issues and to strengthen economic ties and diplomatic relations. Since both countries signed a free trade agreement in May -- pending ratification in the legislature -- Chen said that he hoped the business leaders accompanying him would work to improve bilateral investment and business.

On the leaders' summit, Chen said he hoped to exchange views on energy and environmental issues and strengthen cooperation.

Chen and Zelaya also saw the signing of a visa-free pact for diplomatic personnel and civil servants.

While visiting a guava farm, which has received technical assistance from Taiwan Chen described a guava he tasted as "having a Taiwan flavor." Honduran Vice President Elvin Santos said they had the flavor of "Taiwan's success and democracy."

Farmer Julio Andino said it was an honor to have the president of Taiwan visit his farm and asked God to bless Chen and Taiwan.

Yesterday, Chen was scheduled to visit the Central Institute of Vincente Caceres and offer Honduras US$5 million in loans to buy computers. He was also scheduled to visit the city hall and deliver a speech in parliament.

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