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Nelson Mandela makes first Taiwan appearance

TAIPEI -- South African black leader Nelson Mandela, chairman of the African National Congress (ANC), arrived Friday in Taiwan on a four- day official visit.

Mandela was scheduled to meet Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui and Prime Minister Lien Chan for talks on improving bilateral cooperation, according to a foreign ministry statement.

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The visit is seen as the result of recent Taiwanese efforts to forge closer ties with South Africa's black majority.

Due to intense diplomatic pressure from China, Taiwan currently has official relations with only 29 nations - South Africa being the largest and politically most important.

On Wednesday, local media reported that Mandela was visiting Taiwan to discuss the future of bilateral relations in the event of an ANC victory in general elections set for next year.

But, speaking before his Thursday departure from South Africa, Mandela said the reports were untrue.

China, a long-time supporter of Mandela's opposition to apartheid, hopes an ANC election victory will prompt Pretoria to sever ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing.

Mandela visited China last year and met with senior communist leaders.

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