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Official: Taiwan talks may resume soon

  Talks with Taipei could happen once the island's "leader-elect", Ma Ying-jeou, takes office next month, a spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office said Wednesday.

  When asked at a regular press conference whether conditions would be right after May 20 - when Ma takes office - for talks, Li Weiyi said: "Everyone can make their own judgment about that."

  Last weekend, President Hu Jintao held a meeting with the Taiwan-based Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation chairman and Ma's deputy Vincent Siew on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia, at which both sides said they wanted to start talks as soon as possible.

  Hu told Siew that economic and trade exchanges and cooperation between the mainland and Taiwan were facing a historic opportunity and needed a joint effort.

  Siew said on Monday that the two had agreed to restart official dialogue.

  Beijing and Taipei started semi-official negotiations in April 1993, but the talks broke down in July 1999, when former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui put forward the so-called "two states theory" that defined cross-Straits ties as a state-to-state relationship.

  Efforts to restart the talks stalled as the pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which came to power in 2000, rejected the one-China principle as a precondition.

  Ma said he also wants to open regular direct flights to the mainland, loosen controls on mainland tourists visiting Taiwan and open the island to mainland investment.

  Li expressed optimism on these points.

  "I believe under the new conditions, cross-Straits charter flights and direct flights will certainly happen as early as possible," he said.

  He said the mainland is glad to see Taiwan athletes and cheering teams come to the Olympics in Beijing on chartered flights and provides necessary assistance.

  "We really hope mainland companies can invest in Taiwan," he added.

  The Ministry of Justice also announced at the news conference that Taiwan residents can now sit for the judicial exam of the mainland.

  Ding Lu, director of the national judicial examination center under the ministry, said all Taiwan residents who meet the conditions will be allowed to sit the exam, and if they pass will receive a certificate.

  The details are currently being discussed, he said.

  The judicial exam was launched in 2002 and is held annually in September. On the mainland, online registration usually starts in early June.

  (China Daily-Agencies2008-04-17)