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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibet Intrudes on IOC Meeting in Beijing

April 8, 2008


BEIJING April 7, 2008 (AP) — Unrest in Tibet became a major topic among
an Olympic officials meeting in Beijing on Monday, despite Beijing's
calls against mixing politics with the upcoming Summer Games.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said he was
"very concerned" about unrest in Tibet, but played down talk of a
boycott. The head of an organization that oversees 205 national Olympic
committees called on Beijing to open a dialogue with its critics.

The moves illustrate how the largest anti-government protests in Tibet
in two decades are sparking rare political debate within the Olympic
movement, four months ahead of the games.

People protesting China's policies on Tibet and other issues have
attempted to disrupt the Olympic torch relay, bringing new publicity to
long-standing complaints about the communist regime's human rights record.

"I'm very concerned with the international situation and what's
happening in Tibet," Rogge said Monday at a meeting of the IOC and
national Olympic committees in Beijing.

"The torch relay has been targeted. The International Olympic Committee
has expressed its serious concern and calls for a rapid peaceful
resolution in Tibet," Rogge said in a brief speech at the meetings'
opening ceremony.

In a statement read to the meeting, Mario Vazquez Rana of the
Association of National Olympic Committees said the group was:
"Confident that the government of the People's Republic of China should
strive to find through dialogue and understanding a fair and reasonable
solution to the internal conflict that affects the Tibet region."

The comment was to be submitted for inclusion in a joint statement
issued with the IOC at the end of this week's meeting.

China has faced rising criticism ahead of the Olympics on issues ranging
from Tibet to curbs on free speech and the government's close ties to
the Sudanese regime accused of overseeing atrocities in Darfur.

On Monday, a Beijing Olympics spokesman criticized protesters who tried
to disrupt the torch relay in London, saying their actions were a
"disgusting" form of sabotage by Tibetan separatists.

Demonstrators, many of them challenging China's policies in Tibet and
Darfur, tried to board a torch relay bus and attempted to grab the torch
during the procession Sunday. One protester tried to snuff out the flame
with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.

Police said 37 people were arrested for a range of public order
offenses. Security for the event was tight, with several dozen uniformed
agents jogging alongside torchbearers to shield them from repeated

"A few Tibetan separatists attempted to sabotage the torch relay in
London, and we strongly denounce their disgusting behavior," said Sun
Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee.

While Rogge made no direct reference to the protests, he denounced
violence "for whatever reason," as "not compatible with the values of
the torch relay or the Olympic Games."

Rogge acknowledged that "some politicians have played with the idea of
boycotts," but added: "As I speak today, however, there is no momentum
for a generalized boycott."

Various foreign politicians have floated the idea of staying away from
the Games' opening ceremony. In Saturday editions of Le Monde, one of
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Cabinet ministers was quoted as
saying China would have to release political prisoners and open a
dialogue with Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, for
Sarkozy to take part in the Aug. 8 ceremony.

China's communist government said 22 have died in violence stemming from
protests in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited regions of western China that
turned violent on March 14.

Supporters of the Dalai Lama say up to 140 people have died, including
eight killed when security forces fired on protesters on Thursday night.

China's blames the Dalai Lama's supporters for fomenting the violence
and has rejected international calls to open a dialogue to address
concerns its policies are harming the region's traditional Buddhist culture.

Among the attendees at Monday's meeting, IOC coordination commission
member Alex Gilady said he expected the pressure to ease after the Paris
and San Francisco legs of the torch relay that are expected to draw the
most protesters.

"The important message is to tell our athletes that some people are
trying to use them and to ride on their backs for solutions that the
world has to find in other places like the United Nations," said Gilady,
also a senior vice president at NBC Sports, which holds the rights to
broadcast the Olympics in the U.S.

British IOC member Craig Reedie dismissed the London protests as
"isolated flashpoints."

"It wasn't as serious as you would have thought on television," Reedie said.
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