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President Chen makes day-long stop in Tuvalu  >>Photos<<

By Jimmy Chuang, Taipei Times, Taiwan
STAFF REPORTER , IN NADI, FIJI
Thursday, May 05, 2005,Page 2

In Tuvalu yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian told Tuvaluans of the importance of uniting and understanding each other, and said that this principle applies to Taiwanese when it comes to domestic affairs, foreign affairs and cross-strait issues.

The president made the remarks at a state banquet prepared for him and his delegation by Tuvaluan Prime Minister Maatia Toafa.

"I have been trying to elevate the atmosphere for negotiation between different political parties ever since I took my oath of office," Chen said. "Tuvalu has been Taiwan's firm friend for the past 20 years. We have helped each other in many different aspects and have helped each other grow as well. This fits both of our needs."

The president also expressed concern about health problems in Tuvalu and said that Taiwanese medical personnel would help their Tuvaluan counterparts with health-related issues in the future.

Toafa told Chen that the UK's Queen Elizabeth II had also planted a coconut tree in the same yard when she first visited Tuvalu back in 1982.

Chen arrived at Tuvalu's Funafuti International Airport at around 2pm yesterday from Kiribati. Toafa was at the airport to greet Chen in person, while a group of Tuvaluan elementary school children serenaded the president with Taiwanese songs, singing: "Taiwan's scenery is really beautiful. Taiwanese friends are really cute. Taiwanese A-bian [Chen's nickname] is really brave. Taiwan, Taiwan, go go go. A-bian, A-bian, go go go."

Toafa, in response to an invitation from Chen to visit Taiwan, promised he would fly there on May 21 for a eight-day trip.

Chen departed Tuvalu later in the day.

Chen's day started before dawn yesterday. Before he left Kiribati for Tuvalu, the president got up at around 5am to enjoy the sunrise in what is purportedly the first country in the world to see the sun rise every day. Chen invited reporters to join him.

Shortly after dawn, he departed for Tuvalu.

As a smaller plane was used for the trip, only 15 of the 41 reporters who have been traveling with the president were allowed to accompany him to Tuvalu.

While the rest of the delegation and reporters stood by in Tarawa, officials from the Presidential Office told reporters flying with the president of a change in schedule, saying that on his way home he would fly to Nadi, Fiji, instead of stopping over in Guam as originally planned.

The officials, however, requested the press keep quiet until the president touched down at Nadi airport because of international political concerns.

 

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