Bush insists on attending Beijing Olympics

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Washington, Apr 14: The White House has again confirmed that President George W Bush will attend the Beijing Olympics, ignoring the decision of some prominent US allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel to boycott its opening ceremonies in August.

President Bush, who personally told Chinese President Hu Jintao he would attend the games, is not backing down. If he sticks to his decision, he will be the first sitting US President to attend an Olympics held on foreign soil. US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, in a Sunday television talk-show, said President Bush wanted to use the opportunity to support the US Olympic team, while raising human-rights concerns in closed-door talks with Chinese leaders. ''That is the most effective way to bring about change, particularly on the fate of Tibet,'' he said. ''I think, unfortunately, a lot of countries say if we say that we are not going to the opening ceremonies we 'checked the box' on Tibet. That is a cop out,'' Hadley said.

Mr Hadley said the United States had leverage with China, and the quiet diplomacy favoured by the Bush administration could bring results.

''If other countries are concerned, they ought to do what we are doing, and that is through quiet diplomacy send a message to the Chinese that this is an opportunity with the whole world watching to show that they take into account, and want, and are determined to treat their citizens with dignity and respect,'' he said.

Meanwhile, President Bush is under pressure to stay away from the games. The two Democratic presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, have urged him to miss the ceremonies.

However, Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, said he would go only if China improved its human rights record.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not attend the Beijing Games' opening ceremonies but he will be present during the finale that will include the passing of the Olympic baton to London, site for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already announced she will not attend the opening ceremonies. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has indicated he may do likewise.


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