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Taiwan's Chen Meets with Laura Bush in Costa Rica

Taiwan officials say President Chen Shui-bian will not make a transit stop in the United States as he returns home from a tour of Latin America.

Mr. Chen will fly back to Taiwan Tuesday, from Costa Rica, where he attended the inauguration of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Monday.

At the ceremony, Mr. Chen met briefly with U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, who was among the visiting dignitaries. Taiwan's Central News Agency says the two had a short conversation, during which Mr. Chen invited Mrs. Bush to visit Taiwan.

Prior to visiting Costa Rica, Mr. Chen also traveled to Paraguay. The two countries are among Taiwan's few diplomatic allies in the region.

Last week, Taiwan declined an offer by the U.S. for Mr. Chen's plane to stop in Alaska on his way to Latin America. Taiwan officials had requested a more high-profile stopover for Mr. Chen in New York or San Francisco, but Washington refused.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister James Huang blamed China for the dispute, accusing Beijing of trying to squeeze the island's international space. China has repeatedly warned the U.S. not to approve transit stops by Taiwan officials.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.