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OPPOSITION DECLINES PRESIDENT'S INVITATION TO DEBATE REFERENDUM

2004-02-19 20:41:28

    Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) The campaign headquarters of the opposition "pan-blue alliance" presidential ticket formally rejected Thursday President Chen Shui-bian's invitation for a debate on the nation's first-ever referendum to be held alongside the March 20 presidential election.

    Legislator Huang Yi-chiao of the People First Party (PFP) , who concurrently serves as spokesman for the "pan-blue" ticket of Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan and PFP Chairman James Soong, said Lien will not evade the referendum topic in this Saturday's live TV debate with Chen to be organized by major media organizations. "Against this backdrop, we see no need to hold a separate Chen-Lien debate solely on the referendum issue," Huang said.

    Chen said in a live radio interview broadcast on UFO Network earlier in the day that he hopes to hold a one-on-one live TV debate with Lien, the sole challenger to his re-election bid, on referendum issues.

    Huang immediately turned down the invitation on Lien's behalf, on the grounds that the "pan-blue alliance" regards the upcoming referendum as illegal. "Since we have questioned the legitimacy of the referendum from the very beginning, we see no need to organize a Chen-Lien debate solely on that topic, " Huang said. "Nevertheless, if Chen brings up the issue in the televised debate this weekend, Lien will not dodge the question."

    Commenting on Chen's promise made in the same program that his wife Wu Shu-chen will not conduct any stock transactions in the run-up to the March 20 presidential poll, Huang said the "pan-blue alliance" will keep a close watch to see whether the first lady honors Chen's promise.

    The wheelchair-bound first lady reportedly has taken up stock trading as a "hobby." However, her stock trading activities, while described by the president as legal, have come under fire in recent weeks as the presidential race has hotted up.

    Wu made her stock trading records of recent months public earlier this week to show that she was not involved in insider trading or other trading irregularities.

    During last Saturday's first televised debate with Lien, the sole challenger to his re-election bid, Chen also promised for the first time that he will entrust all of his family assets to professional managers after the upcoming election.

(By Sofia Wu)

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