Sarkozy hints boycotting Beijing Olympics ceremony

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London, Mar 26 (UNI) French President Nicolas Sarkozy has become the first world leader to suggest that he might boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony if China does not find a way out to resolve the Tibet issue.

President Sarkozy signalled that he may stay away from the opening ceremony in August unless the Chinese authorities exercised restraint in dealing with the Tibetan independence movement and opened talks with the Dalai Lama.

However, the President's hint of a boycott, delivered on the eve of his state visit to Britain, threatened to open a rift with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Mr Sarkozy said ''all options were open'' and that he would make a decision whether to go to Beijing depending on China's response.

''Our Chinese friends must understand the worldwide concern that there is about the question of Tibet,'' he was quoted as saying by 'Daily Mail'. ''I don't close the door to any option, but I think it's more prudent to reserve my responses to concrete developments in the situation. I want dialogue to begin and I will graduate my response according to the response given by Chinese authorities.'' Mr Sarkozy's comments will increase pressure on the Prime Minister to be more explicit about his demands with Beijing over Tibet. They also threatened to overshadow what London and Paris had hoped would be a turning point in Anglo-French relations after the ill-feeling of the Blair-Chirac years.

However, the British prime minister has made clear he is not in favour of a boycott - a view reiterated yesterday by Foreign Secretary David Miliband as he unveiled the Foreign Office's latest annual human rights report which castigated China for a range of abuses including torture and curbs of freedom of expression.

Miliband said, ''I don't believe a boycott of the Olympics is the right thing to do ... A wrecked Olympics is actually not going to do anything for human rights in China.'' UNI XC CS ARB DB1220

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