TAIPEI�Taiwan�s opposition called for a mass rally and petition Saturday to demand a referendum which would test popular support for an independent enquiry into the shootings of President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu.

"On April 10 we will push for a referendum, which will be the first in Taiwan's history that has been conceived by the people, demanded by the people and set up by the people," KMT spokesman Alex Tsai told a news conference.

"This... will push for the formal establishment of an investigative committee into the shootings," Tsai said. The Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist)-led opposition planned to hold a mass rally outside the presidential office and collect signatures for the referendum, which will be triggered under current laws if they gain 82,500 votes.

Election authorities will have to hold a referendum if the motion is initiated by 0.5 percent of the electorate, or 82,500 voters, and endorsed by five percent, or 825,000. The move comes shortly after the opposition withdrew one of two lawsuits seeking to nullify the result of the March 20 presidential election, which Chen and Lu won by a margin of just 0.22 percent.

Chen's government has declined to set up a parliamentary investigation, dismissing opposition claims that the shootings were staged to win sympathy votes for Chen, and to deprive security personnel the chance to cast their ballots.

�Actually, the recount is at the heart of the problem," government culture and propaganda official Chen Pen-tan told RFA's Mandarin service. "We can see from the fact that they've withdrawn their suit to have the election nullified that the KMT-led coalition really doesn't have any sort of evidence."

"They seem to have a sort of half-hearted, belt-and-braces attitude. If they could only return to the view that what's really at issue here is the question of the recount, then we could get this problem solved," Chen said.

Opposition lawyers said the withdrawal of the lawsuit was aimed at avoiding the possibility of conflicting results from two separately conducted recounts.

�The first court should be able to get on with the process of a recount without interference, so we are withdrawing the suit which seeks to nullify the election result," opposition legal team leader Lee Tsung-teh told RFA.

The KMT says it is not satisfied with government efforts to investigate the case, despite the involvement of U.S. forensic experts, and claims the incident may have been staged, an allegation Chen denies.

Taiwan-educated U.S. forensic expert Henry Lee, who worked on the investigation of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, began an inquiry into the shootings Friday. #####


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