Lebanon Refuses Taiwan Leader's Plane

Lebanon prevented the Taiwanese president's plane from making a refueling stop in Beirut after China's ambassador complained to authorities, a Lebanese official said Thursday.

China's envoy to Lebanon called an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and asked him not to allow President Chen Shui-bian's plane to land, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press. . "Lebanon in this case had to respond positively to the Chinese demand because of the good relations and agreements signed between the two countries," the official said.

CountryWatch: Lebanon

Lebanon does not have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and it is eager to maintain a good relationship with China because it wants the support of the veto-wielding country on the U.N. Security Council, especially in disputes with Syria.

Officials at Rafik Hariri International Airport said "concerned security authorities" told air traffic controllers to "inform the plane's captain...that the plane is not allowed to land in Beirut for refueling." The officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, did not elaborate.

Chen, on his way to Latin America, landed in the United Arab Emirates. It was not clear if that decision was made after the Lebanese ban.