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Taiwan president's supporters rally

Thousands of supporters of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian gathered in a Taipei park Saturday to protest mounting calls for the leader to step down over alleged corruption.

They shouted pro-Chen slogans and waved placards at the rally aimed at countering an anti-Chen campaign launched by Shih Ming-teh, a former head of the president's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

"We must stand by President Chen, who was elected by the Taiwanese people and protest the native regime," Wang Ben-hu, a co-organizer of the event, told the crowd.

"We oppose Shih's drive to oust the president because he has no right to do so and he is an indecent person," Wang said.

Chen was elected in 2000, ending the Kuomintang's 51-year grip on power. He was narrowly reelected for a second and final term in 2004.

Many of the protestors came from southern Taiwan, a traditional stronghold of the independence-leaning DPP.

Shih, who has secured the endorsement of over one million people, is planning to begin an indefinite round-the-clock sit-in outside the presidential office no later than September 9 to demand that Chen resign.

Shih's office has said that some 200,000 people are expected to join the mass protest when it starts.

Prosecutors have stepped up a probe into whether Chen misused funds intended for national affairs. Some members of his family are also facing corruption allegations.

The president's wife Wu Shu-chen is being investigated for allegedly accepting large amounts of department store gift certificates and their son-in-law Chao Chien-ming has been indicted for insider trading.

One of the president's former top aides has been charged with graft.

Separately, DPP lawmaker Wang Sing-nan and his supporters Saturday protested outside Shih's headquarters to demand the return of money they donated to his legislative campaign years ago.

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