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Paipei - Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian told China on Thursday to drop the idea of giving the island a goodwill gift of a pair of pandas, saying they would not be happy.
"A-bian sincerely urges the Chinese leaders to leave the giant pandas in their natural habitat, because pandas brought up in cages or given as gifts will not be happy," Chen wrote in a weekly electronic newsletter, using his nickname.
China and Taiwan have been diplomatic and military rivals since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and China still claims the island as its own.
China has offered pandas to Taiwan several times in the past as goodwill gestures, but the island has always turned them down, in part because it says its climate is unsuitable.
The giant panda is one of the world's most endangered species and is found only in China. An estimated 1 000 live in the south-western province of Sichuan and in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces in the north-west.
The panda offer was made at the end of a historic visit to the mainland by Lien Chan, who heads Taiwan's Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, which once ruled all China and was the civil war enemy of China's Communist Party.