Thai premier looks forward to Anfield answer

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The Independent Online

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's flamboyant prime minister who has bid £60m for a 30 per cent stake of Liverpool, was upbeat yesterday and awaiting an imminent announcement from the club, and also confirmed that he was holding talks with another unnamed British club. Everton denied rumours that they had held discussions.

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's flamboyant prime minister who has bid £60m for a 30 per cent stake of Liverpool, was upbeat yesterday and awaiting an imminent announcement from the club, and also confirmed that he was holding talks with another unnamed British club. Everton denied rumours that they had held discussions.

The telecom tycoon-turned- politician said he would meet club officials last night ahead of the reply from Liverpool's board. "We have not received the answer yet," Thaksin said. "It might reach us within this week. He added: "Whether we buy into Liverpool or not, we benefit because people around the world will know Thailand."

Thailand's hopes improved at the weekend after Liverpool spurned a rival offer from the businessman Steve Morgan.

Since the beginning of the year, when Thaksin dispatched his deputy commerce minister, Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn, to Britain to search for a Premiership club, the Thai prime minister has been in secret negotiations.

Often likened to his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi because of their telecommun-ications empires and interest in team ownership, Thaksin kept uncharacteristically quiet about his plans. But while golfing at the weekend, he sported a Liverpool cap.

When Thaksin first signalled his intentions, the move was hailed by the legions of Premiership fans in Thailand. Otherwise, reaction has ranged from ecstatic support to puzzlement or outrage, depending on the person's political persuasion. Critics complained that the surprise gambit was a diversionary tactic to push stories about excessive force against Islamic rebels in the south, and an upcoming vote of no confidence for eight party ministers, off the front pages.

After contradictory announcements from his ministers, Thaksin insists that Thai taxpayers will not pay for the bid, but that the Thai government will handle all the financing ­ through a share offer or public subscription.

Widespread reports of Thai "blood money" in the UK press, which were widely reprinted inside Thailand, provoked a street rally to assert national pride. Protests were staged outside the British embassy last Friday when Thais pretended to kick an anonymous man dressed in suit and tie, hooded with a paper bag. In case the message of these amateur guerrilla theatrics was too obscure, the hood was labelled "Ugly British".

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