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2004-07-09 20:46:44

    Washington, July 9 (CNA) U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has rebuffed mainland Chinese leaders' demands for an end to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, the Washington Post reported Friday.

    The paper quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying that Rice also told senior mainland leaders that the Bush administration was willing to help establish a dialogue between Beijing and Taipei.

    The official, who is traveling with Rice and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Rice was not specific in the offer and told mainland leaders only that the United States could take steps "to further dialogue if it's helpful."

    In the past, the paper said, the United States has rejected suggestions that it assume a mediator's role in the sensitive dispute between mainland China and Taiwan. But it has repeatedly urged both sides to open talks and settle their differences peacefully.

    The Washington Post said the dispute over Taiwan dominated Rice's meetings on the first day of a two-day visit to Beijing that began Thursday. She met with Jiang Zemin, mainland China's military chief and former president, and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing Thursday and was scheduled to see President Hu Jintao and another senior foreign policy official, Tang Jiaxuan, on Friday.

    Mainland China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has threatened to seize it by force if necessary, but Taiwan's newly reelected president, Chen Shui-bian, says the island is an independent country. The mainalnd Chinese military is planning large-scale exercises this month involving joint sea, land and air operations on an island about 150 miles from Taiwan.

    Rice's visit, her first to mainland China since she accompanied President George W. Bush to Beijing in 2002, comes during what appears to be an intensifying leadership struggle between Jiang and Hu, which is complicating the ruling Communist Party's decision-making on Taiwan and other issues, the Washington Post said. Mainland Chinese officials have said Jiang was resisting pressure to retire and has taken a hard-line position toward Taiwan to strengthen his grip on power.

(By Oliver Lin and Sofia Wu)


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