Five former presidents attend democracy forum in Taiwan

( dpa ) - Taiwan on Friday held the first Global Forum on New Democracies with five former presidents participating.

President Chen Shui-bian opened the one-day meeting in Taipei, which is aimed at spreading freedom and democracy around the world and to speed up the democratization process in new democracies.

The participants will discuss the achievements and challenges of new democracies, including the choice of a constitutional system, party politics, transitional justice and civil society, and sign a declaration.

Seven former presidents were scheduled to attend the meeting. They are Kim Young Sam of South Korea, Willem de Klerk of South Africa, Lech Walesa of Poland, Emil Constantinescu of Romania, Jolio Jelev of Bulgaria, Francisco Flores of El Salvador and Vicente Fox of Mexico.

But Jelev could not come due to heavy fog at the Sophia airport, while Fox cancelled his attandence after the Mexican government had expressed worries that his visit might hurt Mexico-China trade talks.

Taiwan's foreign ministry confirmed that Fox canceled his speaking engagement at the last minute at the strong recommendation of his government.

The Foreign Ministry's acting spokeswoman, Phoebe Yeh, said that Taiwan was one of the stops on Fox's Asian trip, but Fox canceled the Taiwan leg at his government's recommendation, but his Asia trip is not affected.

" Mexico is holding talks with China on many trade issues. For the smooth running of the talks, the Mexican government suggested Fox cancel the Taiwan trip," the Liberty Times quoted Yeh as saying.

Yeh expressed regret at China's interference, the paper said.

China sees Taiwan as its breakaway province and bars Beijing's allies from making formal contacts with Taipei. Currently only 23 countries recognize Taiwan.

The Global Forum on New Democracies is held by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and co-sponsored by the Taiwan government.

Taiwan hopes to create a platform for young democracies to exchange experiences in promoting democracy and to upgrade Taiwan's international profile.

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