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Taiwan foreign minister says Honduras `coup` should be `condemned`
Ou urges `rational and peaceful`` solution of dispute
By Dennis Engbarth in Panama City
Taiwan News, Staff Reporter
2009-07-01 01:50 PM
Taiwan`s foreign minister clearly described Sunday`s overthrow of Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya by the Central American country`s military for the first time Tuesday as a ``coup`` that ``violated the principles of democracy and the rule of law`` and ``should be censured.``

Foreign Minister Francisco Ou made the remark while speaking with Taiwan reporters who are accompanying President Ma Ying-jeou on his state visit to Panama to attend Wednesday`s inaugural of Panamanian president - elect Ricardo Martinelli of the conservative Democratic Change party.

On Monday morning, Ma, who is scheduled to make a two - day official visit Nicaragua after leaving Panama Friday morning, cancelled a planned two-day stop in Honduras to sign a joint communique on bilateral cooperation with Zelaya in the wake of Sunday`s coup.

Zelaya was arrested and expelled to Costa Rica by Honduran military forces in the wake of a bitter controversy over a referendum planned by the president on constitutional reform, including a possible measure to allow a second presidential term, during which he had failed in an attempt to fire the Armed Forces Commander General Romeo Vasquez.

The Taiwan foreign ministry issued a statement in Taipei on Tuesday that stressed the long - term stability of bilateral relations, but did not explicitly condemn the coup and instead said the Taiwan government ``believes that any government behavior that is not in accordance with democracy and legal processes democratic should be condemned.``

The MOFA statement had also urged all groups in Honduras to ``respect the national constitutional system, democratic frameworks`` and ``use tolerance and political wisdom to engage in dialogue`` aimed at an early and peaceful resolution of the dispute and the ``restoration of democratic order.``

Responding to questions by reporters on the Taiwan government`s position in the light of the condemnation of the coup by United States President Barack Obama, Ou reaffirmed that ``we hope that the domestic political groups in Honduras can work rationally and peacefully to resolve this issue.``

Moreover, the Taiwan foreign minister stated that `` we do not identify with this method and we see it as a coup and definitely do not support it.``

Ou related that Zelaya had called the controversial referendum, slated for last Sunday, to see whether the people supported the proposal to allow a second term for presidents, whom can only serve one term in Honduras.

``In our evaluation, there was not much opposition, so we hd expected the process to be smooth,`` related Ou, who said that the key change in the situation occurred when Zelaya called on the Honduran military to distribute the ballots after the Supreme Court had banned the referendum and unsuccessfully fired Vasquez the military refused to accept the order on the grounds that it violated the military`s political neutrality.

Ou stated that the MOFA began to feel that the Honduran political situation ``was not very stable`` after Zelaya was unable to push Vasquez and other military chiefs out of office and then the Office of the President asked for ``contingency measures`` which were implemented after the coup occurred Sunday.

``Since the military had decided on the coup in secret, we did not have advance information,`` said Ou, who related that disruption of communications between Taipei and its embassy in Tegucigalpa but did not receive full confirmation until after Zelaya was expelled to Costa Rica.

Ou said that the MOFA had recommended cancellation of the Honduras trip after the coup, which occurred Sunday morning Taiwan time, but added that Ma had decided to announce the move Monday.

The foreign minister denied that the delay in announcing the cancellation of the Honduran trip on the day that Ma was leaving had constituted an ``intelligence failure.``

Ou, a former ambassador to Guatemala and Honduras, said that his ministry had not had any contact with Zelaya or the coup organizers and that they had not had any contact with the Taiwan government.

On Tuesday, Zelaya delivered an address on the crisis to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. Joining Obama, the European Union and most Latin American nations, the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday unanimously condemned the military coup and demanded Zelaya's immediate return to power.

Roberto Micheletti, the temporary leader of Honduras, threatened to arrest Zelaya if he returned while 5,000 anti-Zelaya demonstrators gathered at a main plaza in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday to celebrate his ouster.

However, Ou told reporters that he did not believe Ma`s itinerary to Nicaragua will be changed even though Nicarguan President Daniel Ortega of the left wing Sandinista party had vowed to escort Zelaya back to Honduras.

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