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Taiwan Officials Irate!

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Mike

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Taipei, June 27 (CNA) A group of opposition legislators grilled the administration again Monday over the U.S. beef imports issue amid concerns of mad cow disease. Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao, a deputy convener of the KMT caucus at the Legislative Yuan, said he wants administration officials, including Premier Frank Hsieh, to apologize to the country for "wrong policies" which he claimed have ignored the people's health and compromised Taiwan's national dignity. A second case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) , or mad cow disease, in the United States was confirmed by a British laboratory Friday, prompting the government to reimpose a ban on imports of U.S. beef from Saturday. The Department of Health (DOH) decided at the same time that U.S. beef already on store shelves in Taiwan is safe and does not need to be removed. Lai criticized the government for putting political considerations ahead the people's health. He said that beef from the ROC-held outlying island of Kinmen has been banned from being imported into Taiwan proper since 1999 following a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak there. The ban still stands today even though no new cases of foot-and-mouth disease have been reported since then, he said. The lawmaker ridiculed the administration for "flattering" the United States by reopening Taiwan's doors to U.S. beef even though the mad cow disease threat in the United States has not disappeared as evidenced by Friday's confirmation of a second case. Lai said that companies which have sustained losses due to the government's wrong policies regarding U.S. beef imports should be entitled to national compensation, adding that if anyone comes down with mad cow disease after ingesting imported U.S. beef, the government should foot their medical bills in addition to paying them compensation. KMT Legislator Joanna Lei urged the administration to end its "beef diplomacy" and refrain from "trading people's lives for Taiwan's diplomatic space." Meanwhile, opposition People First Party (PFP) Lin Teh-fu said that the administration owes the country explanations on many matters, including why Taiwan reopened its doors to U.S. beef in April despite concerns expressed by the Council of Agriculture and why imported U.S. beef is allowed to remain on store shelves around Taiwan after the DOH called a halt to imports of U.S. beef Saturday. Lin noted that nobody is sure how long the incubation period of mad cow disease is and lashed out at the DOH's lifting of the ban on imports of U.S. beef in mid-April as a decision made out of "political considerations." PFP Legislator Lee Hung-chun asked why Taiwan reopened its doors to U.S. beef in April while more than 50 countries around the world, including Japan and South Korea, kept their bans on U.S. beef imports in place. PFP lawmakers threatened Sunday to block the budget for the Department of Health should the top government health affairs agency continue to be negligent in overseeing safety of imported beef from the United States. Taiwan banned imports of U.S. beef, live cattle and all related products in December 2003 after the discovery in Washington State of a single BSE case, the first U.S. case of mad cow disease. The country lifted the ban on U.S. boneless beef from animals under 30 months of age April 16. (By Deborah Kuo) ENDITEM/Li

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