Brown to skip Beijing Olympic opening ceremony

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London, Apr 10 (UNI) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

According to a report Premier Brown is preparing to deliver a bruising snub to the Chinese government for its Tibet policy by staying away from the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics.

Mr Brown's announcement about not attending the ceremony came amidst protesters highlighting China's repression of Tibet prepared to greet the Olympic torch relay as it arrived in California having already interrupted its journey through London and Paris this week, the Independent reported.

The Prime Minister will only be in Beijing for the closing ceremony as leader of the next Olympic host country. Tessa Jowell, the Olympics minister, will represent Britain at the opening in August, said a report.

However, Downing Street insisted it did not represent a change of plan and said Mr Brown was not boycotting the opening of the games as he had never planned to attend.

It said it would be a waste of public money for the Prime Minister to attend both ceremonies and said that Beijing had been informed of the decision.

But Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, described the move as a ''last-minute U-turn,'' accusing Mr Brown of doing ''the right thing late in the day when he is forced to do so because of public opinion.'' A Downing Street spokesman told Channel 4 News last night: ''He won't be at the opening ceremony. He never had any intention of going there was never an expectation that he would attend both ceremonies.'' But his stance is likely to be seen differently in China, where it had been reported he would travel to the country for the start of the Games. China has already expressed its anger that he will meet the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who visits Britain next month.

Two weeks ago, Mr Brown was asked if he would follow the lead of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, and stay away from the opening ceremony. He replied: ''We will not be boycotting the Olympic Games.'' At his Downing Street press conference 10 days ago, he argued: "I think President Sarkozy said himself he expected Britain, because we are going to host the next Olympics, to be present at the Olympic ceremonies and I will certainly be there." Matt Whitticase, of the Free Tibet Campaign, said: ''I'm delighted he is not going, but ''absolutely must'' say he is not going because of his concerns over human rights.

''It must be made clear this is the only way the Chinese government will be put in a position where they're seen to be standing at the opening ceremony with no Gordon Brown. That will be very embarrassing,'' he said.

A YouGov poll for Channel 4 News discovered 43 per cent of the public thought the Prime Minister should stay away. It also found 66 per cent believe the recent London protests had ''damaged'' the Chinese government.


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