KUALA LUMPUR: Having traversed Asia, Europe and the United States, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will be setting his sights soon on the more varied landscape of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Chile, Ecuador and Cuba are beckoning for what will be Abdullahs first overseas trip in his second year as Prime Minister. Abdullah is among the world leaders who have confirmed their participation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) 2004 Leaders Meeting in the Chilean capital of Santiago on Nov 20 and 21.
A bilateral meeting with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos has also been scheduled. After Chile, Abdullah heads for Ecuadors famed natural paradise of the Galapagos Islands.
Officials are also working on a meeting between the Malaysian Premier and Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez. Next is a 36-hour stopover in Havana for discussions with Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Chilean Ambassador to Malaysia Patricio Torres said his president had earlier this year wanted to personally hand over an invite to Abdullah to attend the Apec meeting, but circumstances did not permit it.
We view PM Abdullahs participation as particularly important to us, as Malaysia was instrumental in Chiles entry into Apec in 1994.
Chile enjoys great relations with Malaysia, he added in an interview. International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Rafidah Aziz will accompany Abdullah for the Apec meeting in which trade policy objectives and international economic issues are set to dominate.
Torres said Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen and Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi were among several Malaysian leaders who had attended Apec preparatory meetings in Chile earlier this year.
Ecuadorian Ambassador Manuel A. Pesantes also described Abdullahs visit to his country from Nov 22 to 24 as an important event. He is coming on a private visit to the Galapagos but we are giving it top priority.
We want to make direct contact with him and benefit from his journey to our land, added Pesantes, who will return to Ecuador to prepare for the Malaysian Prime Minister's visit.
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