Taiwan's president expressed confidence that Nicaragua will back its bid for a seat at the United Nations.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday he received a promise of support from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega during a private meeting.
"We really trust (Ortega's) word," Chen said during a meeting with foreign journalists. "Not just what he says in public, but also in private, he has promised that this is the way it is going to be."
Taiwan was expelled from the U.N. in 1971, when the seat it held under the name of Republic of China was transferred to the Beijing-based government of People's Republic of China. It has made annual attempts to rejoin since 1993 and is using its name of Taiwan for the first time for its membership application this year.
Ortega said he would decide whether to support Taiwan's bid for a U.N. seat after Chen holds a nationwide referendum on the subject.
Chen also said he liked Ortega's idea to recognize both China and Taiwan, adding that the president would be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize if he could pull off what no other country has.
Ortega _ an ally of mainland China's communist government as head of Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government during the 1980s _ assured Chen on Monday night that he would try to establish relations with the People's Republic of China, "but not if it depended on severing ties with Taiwan."
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China continues to claim the self-governing island as part of its territory, and has threatened to use force if Taiwan moves to formalize its de facto independence.
Washington has repeatedly warned Taiwan against making unilateral moves to change the fragile status quo in the Taiwan Strait, fearing a war with China could soon involve the U.S.
On March 14, Ortega's administration abstained from voting on Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization, to which China belongs.
During his visit, Chen promised a broad aid package for Nicaragua _ one of 24 countries, most small, whose relations Taiwan counts on to maintain its recognition as an independent state.
Both China and Taiwan routinely offer generous grants, loans and investments in the diplomatic battle.
Ortega is one of the free-market island's most unusual, if newfound allies. He led a Marxist government in the 1980s that had relations with Beijing _ ties that conservative governments of the 1990s shifted to Taiwan.
Since retaking office, Ortega has joined a bloc led by the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela.
Chen also said Tuesday that Taiwan and Nicaragua are going to try to speed up a free-trade agreement between the two countries.
Chen, who visited several areas of Nicaragua in Ortega's Mercedes Benz sport utility vehicle, insisted such ideological differences pose no problems.
"We had such deep conversations. ... It was as if we were in love," he quipped.
"It didn't just seem that way," Ortega countered. "We are in love _ with justice, work and peace."