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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
Taiwan plays down Liberia blow
Taiwan Foreign Minister Eugene Chien
The foreign minister accused China of using its influence in the UN
Taiwanese Prime Minister Yu Shyi-kun has rejected a resignation offer from the country's Foreign Minister Eugene Chien, who said he would step down after Liberia severed links with Taiwan.

Mr Chien had said he wanted to resign after Liberia's surprise decision on Sunday to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and re-open relations with its rival, China.

"I asked him not to blame himself for the setback and asked him to stay on the job," Mr Yu later explained. "I told him not to think about resigning and to keep working hard."

Taiwan was a close ally of Liberia's former President Charles Taylor, who has now gone into exile as part of a peace deal brokered in August, and has donated considerable sums to the country over the years.

The BBC's correspondent in Liberia, Paul Welsh, says Monrovia's decision to switch allegiance was a pragmatic one, with China expected to begin contributing towards reconstruction in Liberia.

Circle of influence

The move reduces the number of countries that recognise Taiwan's sovereignty to 26 - most of them impoverished nations in Africa and South America.

The island, which split with Beijing in 1949, has for all practical purposes been independent for half a century, but China describes it as a renegade province that must be re-united with the mainland.

Civilians walk past a peacekeeping vehicle in Liberia
The peacekeeping mission needs Chinese goodwill

Mr Chien accused China of using its influence in the United Nations, which now has peacekeeping troops deployed in Liberia, to orchestrate the switch.

Liberian presidential spokesman Eugene Nagbe said on Sunday that relations with Beijing will help with his country's reconstruction efforts.

However, Taiwan has denounced what it calls the "dollar diplomacy" which has lured away one of its allies.

Our correspondent says that for the Chinese Government this is a small victory over Taiwan, achieved with money rather than guns.

The new diplomatic agreement means the Liberian and Taiwanese Governments have a week to close their embassies in each others' countries and three months to end all agreements and treaties.


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