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2004-01-16 23:48:31

    Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Taiwan had informed the United States and other countries concerned about Taiwan's proposed referendum of the questions to be put to the vote before President Chen Shui-bian revealed them to the Taiwan public Friday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien said Friday.

    Hours after the president announced the two questions to be put to the people in a March 20 referendum, Chien said at a news conference that his ministry had relayed an English version of the questions to Taiwan's neighboring states and to the United States, whose President George Bush had disapproved of the idea in public. "They fully understand Taiwan's stance on this, " the minister said.

    He shrugged off questions about whether the move has succeeded in quelling Washington's misgivings about the referendum, saying that the question would be better answered by the United States.

    The country's overseas representatives offices have also been primed with the context of the president's revelation Friday and have been told to get the president's message across to political and opinion leaders in their host countries and seek their suppports.

    Chien said his ministry played no role in composing the questions in the referendum, which was done by presidential aides, but it has done all it can to ensure that the country's foreign friends are not misled by Beijing into believing that the island is trying to rock the boat by changing the current status quo via a referendum.

    The president's disclosure of the referendum questions invoked praise from his supporters and criticism from his political rivals.

    Legislator Tsai Huang-lang, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whip at the Legislative Yuan, said the questions will highlight mainland China's threat against the county.

    Legislator Chen Chien-ming, the whip of the DPP's political ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union at the Legislative Yuan said Chen has gotten the upper hand in his struggle with the mainland and the ball is in Beijing's court.

    Chen Po-chih, president of the Taiwan Thinktank, said the president's statement will boost foreigners' confidence and investment in Taiwan.

    Political analyst Chang Wu-chang said the two questions have been deliberately worded in a non-provocative way and therefore might not give the president any edge in the presidential election.

    Opposition Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan, who is competing against Chen for the presidency, questioned the legality of the president's referendum.

    First, Lien said in a campaign rally in Taitung, eastern Taiwan, that the right to organize a referendum should be lodged with the people rather than the government, and certainly not with the president, who already has the greatest power to make policy in the country.

    Furthermore, Lien said, there is no "immediate and obvious" risk to the country under which the newly enacted Referendum Law empowers the president to call for a referendum.

    Lien urged the people to vent their dissatisfaction with Chen by voting him down in the March 20 election.

(By Maubo Chang)


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