updated 9/1/2008 3:37:03 PM ET 2008-09-01T19:37:03

Paraguay will reverse its historic support for Taiwan at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, and also is reconsidering its relations with communist regimes.

President Fernando Lugo said his government wants to maintain diplomatic relations with all countries of similar interests.

"Paraguay's foreign policy will be independent under my government and will not accept conditions," Lugo said in a local television interview Sunday.

Paraguay, the last South American country to recognize Taiwan, has supported the island since 1957, voting every year in support of resolutions to admit Taiwan to the assembly. Nations that recognize Taiwan don't have diplomatic relations with communist China, which considers the island a renegade province.

Wants to establish ties with China
But Lugo's election last April ended 61 years of one-party, conservative rule under which Paraguay distanced itself from communist countries. The leftist president, who was inaugurated Aug. 15, said he wants to establish relations with China, which has boosted its diplomatic and trade ties with Latin America in recent years.

Lugo also said he is considering an invitation to visit Cuba from former President Fidel Castro.

But Lugo says he is not following in the footsteps of another South American leftist leader, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has established close ties with China and Cuba.

"I will not be influenced in any way by President Hugo Chavez," Lugo told Channel 2 television in Asuncion. "My government will not copy any foreign political model. We have our own reality different from that of other nations."

In return for Paraguay's 51 years of support, Taiwan has sent millions of dollars to the impoverished country for low-income housing, agricultural development and scholarships. Even now, Paraguay's senate is considering accepting a new donation from Taiwan of $71 million.

"We will no longer vote (at the U.N.) for Taiwan despite the fact that we recognize the aid the country has provided," Lugo said.

It wasn't clear what impact the new president's position will have on Taiwan's latest offer of help.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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