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Taiwan's opposition leader and Chinese President Hu Jintao promised today to work together to end hostilities between Taipei and Beijing, during the highest-level meeting between the two sides since they split amid civil war nearly six decades ago.

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

In a ceremony televised live in China and Taiwan, Hu and Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan smiled and shook hands in the Great Hall of the People.

Beijing and Taipei should focus on "peace, stability and development for the future," Hu said.

Lien responded: "We absolutely should avoid confrontation and collisions."

Lien's visit is the first by a Nationalist leader since the party, which once ruled all of China, fled the mainland following its defeat by the communists in 1949.

The lavish welcome given to him was part of Chinese efforts to isolate Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, whose party favors formal independence for Taiwan -- a step that Beijing says it would go to war to stop.

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