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IOC wants peaceful resolution to Tibet tensions

March 17, 2008

By Nick Mulvenney

BEIJING, March 16, 2008 (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee
called for a peaceful resolution to the unrest in the Himalayan region
of Tibet, which threatens to derail China's hopes for a smooth run-up to
August's Beijing Olympic Games.

Tensions remained high in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on Sunday as
police and troops locked down the city where street protests against
Chinese rule turned violent two days earlier.

The protests, which the region's exiled leaders said resulted in 80
deaths, look set to overshadow the build-up to the Aug. 8-24 Games,
which China was hoping would be a display of the country's unity and

"The International Olympic Committee (IOC) shares the world's desire for
a peaceful resolution to the tensions of past days in the Tibetan region
of China," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies. "We hope that calm can
return to the region as quickly as possible."

The Olympic movement is no stranger to calls for boycotts of its
four-yearly Summer showpiece. China's policy on Sudan and the war-torn
region of Darfur have already brought calls from activists for athletes
to stay away from Beijing.

Hollywood actor Richard Gere, chairman of the International Campaign for
Tibet, said on Friday that his personal view was that it would be
"unconscionable" to attend the Beijing Games if China failed to deal
peacefully with the unrest in Tibet.

But on Sunday, the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, said the
Games should not be called off, even if the international community had
a "moral responsibility" to remind China to be a good host.

Beijing Organisers on Saturday said they thought the unrest would not
disrupt plans to take the Olympic flame to the Himalayan region in May
and June.

The torch relay for the Beijing Olympics, which starts on March 24,
includes an attempt to take the flame up Mount Everest from Tibet in
early May.
Tibet also forms part of the domestic leg of the relay, taking in
Shannan Diqu on June 19 and Lhasa on the following two days.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi earlier this week attacked critics of
China, accusing them of violating the Olympic Games charter keeping
politics away from sports and saying their efforts were doomed to failure.

China has ruled Tibet since its troops marched in to take control in 1950.

(Take a look at the Countdown to Beijing blog at (Editing by Charles Dick)
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