Beijing is poised to deal a diplomatic blow to Taipei by inviting eight African nations that recognise Taiwan to take part in a major forum covering African affairs. The Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, due to be held in Beijing in mid-October, is being billed as the mainland's most important initiative to Africa in years. Diplomatic sources said Beijing had in principle decided to invite the eight countries that maintain official ties with Taipei: Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Liberia, Malawi, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal and Swaziland. The sources said senior representatives from about 45 African nations were expected to take part. 'Since the conference will be at the ministerial level, most countries will send their foreign and foreign trade ministers,' a diplomatic source said. 'Beijing will be happy to host either ministers from the eight countries that recognise Taiwan or their ambassadors to Taipei.' The source said that despite apparently close ties between the eight and Taipei, Beijing was confident most of them would send a representative to the Chinese capital in October. Senior mainland diplomats including Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan have in the past year or so visited Africa partly to underscore Beijing's determination to persuade the eight nations to cut ties with Taiwan. United front organisations which are offshoots of the Foreign Ministry and other party and government departments have recently invited officials from the eight countries to make private trips to the mainland. For example, members of the royal family of Swaziland visited Beijing earlier this year. Only 29 countries recognise Taiwan. And while Beijing has largely stopped sabre-rattling against the administration of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, it has redoubled efforts to circumscribe the diplomatic elbow room of the 'renegade province'. Officials in Taiwan said a main foreign policy goal of Mr Chen was to retain the loyalty of the 29 nations. He is due to visit Chad, Gambia and Burkino Faso and three South American countries next month. Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Beijing-based African ambassadors are debating the themes and resolutions of the forum. Work has reportedly begun on the drafting of a communique to be issued at the end of the conference but there is disagreement on the substance and the wording. It is understood Chinese and African diplomats agree that the forum should play up the importance of peace and economic development. There is also a consensus on issues such as First World countries writing off the debts incurred by Africa. However, Beijing also wants to emphasise Sino-African co-operation to build a multi-polar world, a phrase for a global order not dominated by the United States. 'Many African countries do not want to be engulfed in the diplomatic conflict between China and the US,' a Western diplomat said. He added that given the sizeable trade surplus enjoyed by China, African countries wanted Beijing to make solid pledges on economic aid. 'Given Beijing's anxiety to woo Africa, particularly the eight countries that recognise Taipei, it is likely to make some compromise on economic aid,' the diplomat said. 'However, given China's limited foreign assistance budget, there is a divergence of views among Chinese leaders on how much to give to Africa.'