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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
Police end Taiwan ballot protest
By Caroline Gluck
BBC correspondent in Taipei

Opposition party supporter in front of riot police in Taipei
Riot police moved in at dawn to disperse the week-long protest
Taiwanese riot police have removed the last protesters outside presidential offices in the capital Taipei.

It came hours after President Chen Shui-bian said he would agree to a full judicial recount of the disputed poll.

As many as half a million protesters packed the square and streets around the presidential office on Saturday.

They demanded a vote recount and an investigation into the shooting of the president on poll eve last week, which they say cost them the election.

At daybreak, about 1,000 Taiwanese riot police forcibly removed protesters who had been staging a week-long demonstration outside the presidential office.

Some minor scuffles broke out as police pushed the protesters back and moved many away from the site in police buses.

Several hundred demonstrators moved to the nearby Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall a few streets away.

'Unfair accusations'

The police operation came a few hours after President Chen held a news conference to announce he was willing to meet his political rivals, without pre-conditions, as early as Monday.

He also said he would agree to an immediate judicial recount of the election if his opponents filed a lawsuit to contest the result.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian
Chen says his patience is wearing thin
He said it would help to restore his reputation against unfair accusations that he had rigged the poll.

President Chen appealed to the protesters outside his office to go home, saying his and the public's patience was wearing thin.

The week-long political crisis may now be moving towards a new phase.

The opposition parties have said top officials would meet on Monday to work out details for a face-to-face meeting between their leaders and President Chen.

The political turmoil has proved deeply divisive.

It has also brought about a warning from China, which regards the island as part of its territory, saying it will not stand idly by if Taiwan descends into social chaos.

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