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Olympic chief calls for peace in Tibet

April 8, 2008

BEIJING 7 Apr 2008 (AFP) — International Olympic Committee president
Jacques Rogge called on China Monday to peacefully end unrest in Tibet,
piling further pressure on the nation's communist rulers ahead of the
Beijing Games.

Rogge spoke in Beijing after protesters sought to highlight the Tibet
crisis and other human rights issues surrounding China during the London
leg of the Olympic torch relay on Sunday, with further demonstrations
expected in Paris on Monday.

"The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern
and called for a rapid, peaceful resolution of Tibet," Rogge said in a
speech at the beginning of a three-day meeting of National Olympic
Committee heads here.

"Violence for whatever reason is not compatible with the values of the
torch relay or the Olympic Games."

Beijing has faced international criticism over its crackdown on protests
in Tibet that began on March 10 and spread to other areas of China with
Tibetan populations.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 150 people have been killed in the
unrest, triggered by what Tibetans say has been nearly 60 years of
repression under Chinese rule.

China insists its security forces have killed no one while trying to
quell the protests. However it says Tibetan "rioters" have killed 20 people.

Determining the real situation has proved extremely difficult because
China has sealed off Tibet and other hotspot areas from foreign
journalists, while distributing only its version of events through its
state-run press.

In the latest reported major protest, Chinese security forces shot dead
eight protesters in southwest China's Sichuan province on Thursday last
week, according to Tibetan activist groups.

China's official Xinhua news agency said police fired "warning shots",
but did not acknowledge the reported deaths, and said the protesters
wounded one local official.

In his speech on Monday, Rogge acknowledged the torch relay had been a
focus of protests and that the Tibet crisis was casting a shadow over
the lead up to the Games in August.

"The torch relay has been targeted," he said. "We are all very concerned
by the current international situation. Events in Tibet have triggered a
wave of protests among governments, media, and non-government

The relay leg in London saw chaotic scenes as British police battled to
keep pro-Tibet demonstrators away from the Olympic flame, arresting 37
protesters who tried to disrupt the high-security tour.

Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) -- which disrupted
the lighting of the flame last month in Athens -- promised to stage
"symbolic, spectacular" actions in Paris.

Pro-Tibetan activists are also to hold a day of protests opposite the
Eiffel Tower from 10:00 am (0800 GMT), but not directly on the flame's

And Paris's Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe plans to unfurl a giant
banner over city hall in defence of human rights.

Rogge, who will remain in Beijing for a three-day IOC board meeting that
starts on Wednesday, again dismissed talk of a boycott of the Games over
Tibet and other issues, including human rights.

"Some politicians have played with the idea of boycotts. As I speak
today, however, there is no momentum for a generalised boycott," he said.

"Fortunately, the public has realised that boycotts don't help and only
penalise the athletes."

However the issue of how much freedom athletes will have to express
their political views was a hot topic among national Olympic chiefs in
Beijing on Monday, and Rogge was expected to address these concerns
later in the week.

"I've spent 30 minutes talking to the IOC chief about this matter and he
will make a comprehensive statement on Thursday morning about this
issue," said the head of the Association of European National Olympic
Committees, Patrick Hickey, on Monday.

Some athletes have already spoken out in opposition to some of China's
policies, particularly its alliance with the Sudan government and
whether that has contributed to the violence in Darfur.

However, athletes are bound by an Olympic charter that limits what they
can say and do about political issues during any Games.
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