- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

TAIPEI — Chen Shui-bian, said yesterday that prosecutors who have indicted his wife on embezzlement charges are unfairly making links between a secret diplomatic fund and corruption, saying none of the money “entered private pockets.”

Mr. Chen’s comments came as Taiwanese lawmakers voted to put a measure calling for a referendum to oust the president onto the legislative calendar. A vote on the recall motion is expected later this month.

The new attempt to topple the president threatened to prolong the political squabbling and uncertainty that have gripped one of Asia’s youngest democracies for the past six months.

Mr. Chen chided prosecutors for asserting that his failure to produce receipts to back up expenditures for a fund used to sustain Taiwanese diplomatic work abroad was illegal.

The fund was at the heart of a three-month-long corruption probe involving Mr. Chen, his wife, and three former aides of the president.

“To link the funds for secret diplomatic work directly with corruption is really unfair,” Mr. Chen told a group of overseas Chinese in Taipei. “All the funds were used for state affairs, not one dollar entered private pockets.”

On Friday prosecutors indicted Mr. Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-chen, on charges of embezzlement in connection with the fund, and said Mr. Chen could face indictment once he leaves office. Mr. Chen has immunity while he remains at this post. His second four-year term ends in 18 months.

The president tried to rally his supporters on Sunday with a televised address saying that he and his wife were innocent. He said any irregularities in his spending or expenses resulted from the confusing and often conflicting regulations for the diplomacy fund.

Mr. Chen also pledged to resign if his wife was convicted, and he promised not to appeal any decision.

Yesterday, Hou Tsai-feng, a lawmaker from the opposition Nationalist Party, acknowledged that recalling the president was a long shot, given Mr. Chen’s support in the legislature.

“Because recent newspaper polls show over 51 percent want Chen to step down, as an opposition party it’s our duty to propose the recall motion, even though it is unlikely to pass,” she said.

The biggest question now was whether Mr. Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party would continue supporting him. Some ruling party lawmakers have been grumbling about the ongoing crisis. They might be tempted to defect in favor of the recall bid.

The president has been under heavy pressure for the past six months over a series of corruption scandals involving his wife and inner circle. Previous opposition-sponsored recall motions against him failed in June and again last month.

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