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2004-02-17 20:17:56

    Taipei, Feb. 17 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian reaffirmed his commitment Tuesday to forming a special task force to promote peace with mainland China if he is successful in the March 20 presidential election. "The task force will begin operations immediately after the presidential poll to promote the establishment of a framework for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, " Chen said at a weekly meeting of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Central Standing Committee in his capacity as party chairman.

    Chen, who is seeking re-election, further said that Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh has agreed to serve as a co-convener of the task force.

    More than half of the team members would come from the private sector, including representatives from the business, cultural and academic fields, Chen said, adding that the roster will not be unveiled until after the presidential poll to prevent opposition parties from "distorting" his goodwill in fostering cross-strait rapprochement into an election campaign ploy.

    Noting that the DPP has consistently called for resolving cross-strait disputes through negotiations on an equal footing, Chen said his administration has also put the question: "Should the government start negotiations with mainland China on the establishment of a peaceful and stable framework for cross-strait interaction" on the nation's first-ever national referendum, to be held alongside the upcoming presidential election.

    If he is re-elected, Chen said, he will address four major categories of cross-strait issues under the principle of "maintaining permanent peace."

    The four categories will include establishing a consultative mechanism for peaceful and stable interaction, promoting exchanges on the principles of parity and reciprocity, forging cross-strait political ties and preventing cross-strait military conflict.

    Chen described the referendum as important, claiming that if the results show that a majority of local people want to beef up Taiwan's anti-missile defense capability and forge a cross-strait interactive framework, his administration will have a mandate to negotiate with Beijing and the mainland Chinese leadership will have to "seriously consider" Taiwan's call for negotiations on an equal footing.

    Against this backdrop, Chen went on, the referendum will not only be a step toward consolidating and strengthening Taiwan's young democracy but will also be a strategy to realize the goals of "cross-strait reconciliation, active cooperation and permanent peace."

    Saying that the referendum will allow the people of Taiwan to decide on major policy issues, Chen said every eligible voter should cast his or her ballot in the referendum to write a new chapter in Taiwan's political history.

    Addressing a campaign rally in downtown Taipei earlier in the day, Chen claimed that if voter turnout in the referendum is below 50 percent, it will be a loss for Taiwan and a boon for the mainland. "We should not let such a grim scenario or nightmare happen. Every voter should answer the two referendum questions to express to the world and to the mainland our desire for peace and our commitment to safeguarding our present status quo," he added.

(By Sofia Wu)


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