Recognise result, Chen urges US

TAIPEI: Taiwan's leadership yesterday called on the United States to swiftly recognise its victory in the island's disputed election as a deadlock with the opposition persisted. 

President Chen Shui-bian and his vice-president Annette Lu, injured in an election eve assassination attempt, sought to pursue business as usual by meeting industrialists at the presidential office as several thousand people continued to protest outside over his re-election. 

The United States, Taiwan's biggest ally and arms supplier has yet to recognise the winners of the election as it did immediately in 2000 when Chen ended 51 years of continuous Kuomintang (KMT) rule over the island. 

“I hope that before tomorrow I can receive official congratulations from US President George W. Bush,” said Lu in televised comments from the presidential office. 

US-Taiwan relations worsened after Chen called a referendum to run alongside the presidential poll on relations with its long-standing rival China. 

Bush rebuked Chen over the referendum – which asked voters to back plans to strengthen military defences against 496 missiles pointed at the island and a push for peace talks – fearing it would upset the delicate balance between the two sides. 

The opposition has called for a recount and a new election, hinting at a conspiracy over the unsolved shooting and claiming it swung the voting Chen's way after a tightly fought and bitter campaign. 

Opposition leavers have produced little evidence to back up their claims over the shooting and allegations of vote rigging and Chen has angrily denied suggestions of a fix in Saturday's election that he won by fewer than 30,000 votes from 13.25 million cast. 

Taiwan's parliament will discuss plans for a recount of ballots today after last week's disputed presidential election but the ruling party said it was pessimistic of any breakthrough. 

The decision to discuss the issue at a scheduled full parliamentary session was agreed by an all-party committee yesterday, officials said. 

Taiwan's leader said yesterday that he would have a better chance to improve relations with rival China during his second term because he won't be under pressure to get re-elected. 

He said that today he would keep his campaign promise and begin setting up a special task force of officials, academics and business leaders who would discuss ways to improve ties with China. 

In a quirk of history, a one-time ally of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and veteran activist for democracy took the stage yesterday to dispute Chen's narrow weekend election win. 

Hsu Hsin-liang, former chairman of Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has begun a hunger strike in a protest against the win, citing worries the outcome may have been unfair and demanding an explanation of the election eve assassination attempt that swung the vote and clinched Chen's victory.  

Chen said he would change the law to allow a swift recount but the opposition has rejected the offer, saying that would take too long, and has demanded a re-election after condemning the balloting as unfair. 

No negotiations were being held yesterday after talks broke down acrimoniously over plans to amend the election law as prospects for an early recount dimmed. – Agencies  

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