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TIBET IN TURMOIL: DIPLOMACY Canada urges Beijing to talk with Dalai Lama

March 22, 2008

The Globe and Mail
March 21, 2008

OTTAWA -- Canada yesterday urged the Chinese government to start talks
on Tibet with the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader-in-exile who Beijing
has long viewed as a subversive force.

Despite its strongly worded calls for China to stop its crackdown on
Tibet, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government was mum on whether the
Prime Minister or his ministers would attend the Summer Olympics in
Beijing in August.

Mr. Harper issued a statement in which he called upon China to "fully
respect human rights and peaceful protest."

His Foreign Affairs Minister, Maxime Bernier, followed with a call for
Beijing to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama - in effect a message
to China that the only acceptable way out of the Tibetan showdown is
through talks.
"The most constructive option at the present time, I believe, would be
for the government of China to enter into direct dialogue with the Dalai
Lama or his designated representatives," Mr. Bernier said in a
statement. "Such dialogue may help ensure an already tense situation
does not deteriorate into further violence."

The message is part of an international effort to press China into talks
with the Dalai Lama - officials in some other countries made similar
statements yesterday, notably U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

About 600 people demonstrated in Ottawa yesterday against China's
crackdown in Tibet, stopping on Parliament Hill where Conservative
backbencher Pierre Poilievre read Mr. Harper's statement, which called
on China to "show restraint."

"As his holiness the Dalai Lama told me when I met him, and as he has
been saying recently, his message is one of non-violence and
reconciliation and I join him in that call," Mr. Harper said in the
statement. Mr. Harper's meeting with the Dalai Lama in Ottawa in
November angered China.

However, Mr. Harper's government has not broached the issue most dear to
China: the Beijing Olympics.

The Chinese government has accused a "clique" around the Dalai Lama of
organizing violence in Tibet in a bid to sabotage the Olympics. Groups
around the world, including the Canada Tibet Committee, have called for
political leaders to skip the Olympics to show disapproval.

The White House said yesterday that U.S. President George W. Bush will
not cancel his visit to the Olympics because of the Tibet crisis,
arguing the event should be more about athletics than politics, and that
the event would draw attention to China and its record.

Unlike other people, "he's able to speak very frankly to the Chinese
president or the Russian president or whoever it might be," spokeswoman
Dana Perino told reporters, recalling that Mr. Bush has said previously
he wants to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Mr. Harper's
spokesman, Sandra Buckler, said the Prime Minister has not yet decided
whether he will attend.

"We're looking at the situation closely," said another spokesman for Mr.
Harper, Dimitri Soudas.

Wayne Marston, the NDP human-rights critic, said his party's caucus will
meet in about two weeks to decide if its MPs should avoid the Games. The
Liberals said the question was "premature" and foreign-affairs critic
Bob Rae also called for dialogue.

Adam van Koeverden, a Canadian Olympic gold and bronze medalist in the
kayak singles, said athletes are caught in the middle of a tug-of-war
when politicians and activists bandy about the idea of boycotts.

"The Olympics are supposed to be an apolitical arena, when people get
together for sport alone," said the 16-time world champion from
Oakville, Ont.

France's human-rights minister Rama Yade said yesterday there should be
no hasty international decision to boycott the opening ceremony of the
Games over a crackdown in Tibet.

And Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has branded the boycott idea
"unrealistic" but said the European Union may discuss the idea of
staying away from the ceremony in Beijing.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Slovenia next week are expected to
discuss the situation, with Mr. Kouchner saying some action should be
taken but nothing that would antagonize China.
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