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Taiwan, China Fail to Reach Agreement on Olympic Torch Route

The Taiwan and International Olympic Committees say the Olympic torch will not travel to Taiwan next April on its way to the 2008 games in Beijing. Authorities in Taipei and Beijing had hoped the torch could pass through the island, but the Taiwan government refused to agree to a ban on its national symbols along the torch's route. Andrew Ryan has the story in Taipei.

The announcements came Friday after Beijing and Taipei failed to meet a September 20 deadline imposed by the International Olympic Committee, for conditions allowing the torch through Taiwan.

Taiwan officials say the two sides had reached a compromise in late August. Premier Chang Chun-hsiung says Taipei had accepted wording that referred to the Taiwan portion of the traditional torch relay as part of the "overseas" route.

But the president of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, Thomas Tsai says Beijing later added new conditions.

He says China sent a letter to Taiwan on September 8 that nullified the consensus reached on August 29. He says the letter included four conditions that made the negotiations in the month of August pointless.

Included among Beijing's new requirements were a ban on Taiwan's national flag, anthem and emblem along the torch route.

At the heart of the matter is Beijing's insistence that Taiwan is part of its territory, even though the island has been self-governing for nearly 60 years. Taiwan says it is a sovereign nation - although it has not issued a formal declaration of independence.

Beijing limits Taiwan's independent participation in the international arena. In order to participate in next year's Olympic games in Beijing, Taiwan's athletes will have to compete under the name "Chinese Taipei."

China's first plan for the Olympic torch route listed the Taiwan leg as a "domestic stop" on the torch's way to Beijing. But Taipei rejected this terminology.

A Taiwan government spokesman, Hsieh Chih-wei, says Taiwan will not compromise its principles.

He says Taiwan was sincere during the negotiations, but could not and would not sacrifice democracy and human rights.

Taiwan officials say they regret the inability to bring the Olympic torch to Taiwan, which a majority of citizens would like to see. They say the failure of the talks will not affect Taiwanese athletes' participation in the 2008 games.