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TAIWAN POLITICAL LEADER FETED IN BEIJING

China lavished hospitality Friday on Taiwan's opposition leader as he met President Hu Jintao in the highest-level contact since the communists and nationalists split amid civil war nearly six decades ago.

Hu and Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan pledged to promote an end to hostilities and to seek closer economic ties -- a boon to Beijing, which hopes to woo Taiwan's business leaders by touting the payoff from integration into the booming Chinese economy.

The Taiwanese government criticized the talks, calling Beijing insincere and saying they would do nothing to improve frosty relations.

The United States -- which many fear could be drawn into any China-Taiwan conflict -- stressed that dialogue should now involve Taiwan's elected government.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened repeatedly to attack. But it also is pursuing peaceful efforts to win over the island, building ties with parties like the Nationalists that favor eventually uniting the two sides.

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