President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) announced yesterday that he would accept the invitation of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to make a state visit in the near future to the north African country - a diplomatic ally of the Republic of China until 1978.
Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, conveyed the invitation as he met Chen during a three-day trip to Taiwan in his capacity as Gadhafi's envoy and president of a Libya-based charitable non-governmental organization.
The president publicly accepted the invitation after meeting with Gadhafi at the Office of the President yesterday morning. No date was given for the visit, which is likely infuriate rival China.
Libya established diplomatic relations with the R.O.C. government in 1959 and severed them in 1978, soon after it recognized the People's Republic of China the same year.
The president also disclosed that the two sides had agreed to open representative offices in each other's capitals soon. Such a move would re-establish a semi-official R.O.C. presence in Libya's capital Tripoli.
The R.O.C. previously had an economic office there from 1980 to 1997, when it was forced to shut it down as a result of China's repeated protests to the Libyan government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.
Lu added that Libya took the initiative recently to propose that the two countries should re-establish trade offices in each other's capital.
Gadhafi, widely seen as his father's successor, arrived in Taiwan on Monday, marking a milestone in relations between Taiwan and Libya after official ties were cut off 27 years ago, the Office of the President said.
Following yesterday's historic meeting, Chen announced that Taiwan and Libya would intensify interaction in many areas, including trade and economic cooperation, aviation, tourism, education and culture, and military and security issues.
Ironically, the announcement coincided with a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing to Libya, where he was expected to deliver an invitation to Libya's leader to attend a Sino-African cooperation forum in China next month, the official Libyan news agency JANA reported.
Meanwhile, Presidential Deputy Secretary-General James Huang (黃志芳) said Gadhafi's visit was made possible by the relentless efforts of some government officials.
"Top ranking officials have promoted strengthening relations between Taiwan and Libya for almost a year, eventually contributing to Seif al-Islam's icebreaking trip to Taiwan," he noted.
Questioned over Libya's reputation as a pariah in the international community, Huang clarified that Libya had largely improved its global image in recent years following its full support of anti-terrorism measures after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.
Gadhafi told the president that his father is willing to further exchanges with Taiwan, hoping that Libya can be Taiwan's gateway to Africa.
He added that he hoped Chen's meeting with his father would lead to comprehensive cooperation in the oil, petrochemical, information technology and security sectors.
Taiwan's state-run Chinese Petroleum Corp is considering cooperation projects with Libya, which has rich oil reserves, the United Evening News quoted Taipei officials as saying.
Chen also told Gadhafi that Taiwan's people would welcome a visit by his father.