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Rice lauds `great leadership` of Taiwan president

Ma urges U.S. congressional leaders to help with arms, visa-free entry

President Ma Ying-jeou utilized an one-night transit stopover in San Francisco to discuss Taiwan affairs with several United States politicians and influential foreign policy analysts, including former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

Ma, who had been greeted with cheers and some jeers upon arriving at the San Francisco Airport Marriot Hotel where he spent an overnight transit before proceeding to Panama, spent his day attending a banquet hosted by Bay Area overseas Taiwan groups and speaking with various U.S. politicians in or from his room.

The banquet, also held at the Marriot, was also attended by American Institute in Taiwan honorary chairman William Brown, who had met the president when his chartered EVA Air Boeing 747-400 Combi arrived at San Francisco International Airport at 3:21 pm local time Monday afternoon.

Brown stated that Ma had promoted Taiwan-United States relations and cross-strait relations and was leading Taiwan in the ``right direction`` in tourism, industrial and security policy.

For his part, the Taiwan president stated that, since last August, his Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government had worked to improve cross-strait relations with the PRC and had simultaneously endeavored to improve ties with the United States, Japan and the European Union.

During their telephone conversation, Rice, who is now a professor of political science at Stanford University,expressed approval for his ``great leadership`` and policy of ``reconciliation`` with the Chinese Communist Party ruled People`s Republic of China which she said had resulted in ``huge`` changes in cross-strait relations.

According to a presidential spokesman, Rice also said that Washington was ``very hopeful`` about Ma`s expressed intention to carry out ``surprise free`` diplomacy.

In addition, Ma held a meeting at his hotel with Democratic U.S. Representative Michael Makoto Honda from San Jose, California and had telephone conversations with Democratic U.S. Senator and former San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein, Republican Senator Jon Kyl from Arizona, Democratic U.S. Representative and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel of New York City and Republican U.S. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who is co-chair of the Senate Taiwan Caucus.

According to a presidential spokesman, Ma discussed issues such as defensive arms sales, visa - free entry for Taiwan tourists, extradition or judicial assistance arrangements and other issues of mutual concern.

Ma is scheduled to depart San Francisco at 7:20 am Tuesday morning (10:20 pm Taipei time) and arrive in Panama City International Airport at 4 pm (5 am Taipei on July 1) for a three day visit during which he will attend the Ma is undertaking his third overseas mission since last August in order to attend the July 1 inauguration of Panamanian President - elect Ricardo Martinelli of the conservative ``Democratic Change`` party.