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    Taiwan breaks ties with Malawi

    TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP): Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said Monday it had severed diplomatic ties with Malawi, after the African country established relations with rival China.

    The break is another blow to Taiwan's diplomatic standing, reducing the number of its allies to only 23. Most are small and impoverished nations in Latin America, Africa and the South Pacific.

    Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. Since then they have been engaged in an all-out contest to win diplomatic allegiance from countries around the world.

    In recent years, China's rising political and economic clout has helped it persuade more countries to recognize Beijing instead of Taipei. The China diplomatic count now stands at more than 170.

    Speaking to reporters at the Foreign Ministry, Deputy Foreign Minister Yang Tzu-pao said China had used underhanded means to steal Malawi away.

    ``We deeply regret that Malawi has decided to establish ties with China under Chinese threats and seduction,'' he said. ``We are terminating diplomatic relations with Malawi effective today.''

    He said China offered Malawi US$6 billion (euro4.03 billion) to get it to switch sides, and criticized the country for carrying out the move when President Chen Shui-bian was visiting Latin America.

    ``This is a great humiliation to our government and the Taiwanese people,'' Yang said. ``This is not something a self-proclaimed democratic country with 42-year-long relations with Taiwan should do.''

    In Beijing, China Central Television confirmed that the country had established formal ties with Malawi.

    ``China established relations with Malawi at the ambassador level,'' it said in a one-sentence statement on its evening news.



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