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Bush 'concern' over Tibet as Games boycott list expands

March 28, 2008

WASHINGTON Macrh 27, 2008 (AFP) — US President George W. Bush voiced
concern over the crackdown in Tibet as another European leader Thursday
vowed to shun the Beijing Olympics, which China says are being scuttled
by the Dalai Lama.

A White House statement said Bush telephoned his Chinese counterpart and
underscored the needs for talks between Beijing and the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

"President Bush called President Hu Jintao today. The (US) president
raised his concerns about the situation in Tibet and encouraged the
Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai
Lama's representatives and to allow access for journalists and
diplomats," the statement said.

But Hu told Bush the Dalai Lama must stop his "sabotage" of the Olympics
before Beijing takes a decision on talks with the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Thursday pledged to stay away
from the games opening ceremony on August 8.

"I do not intend to take part in the Olympic Games opening ceremony in
Beijing," Tusk told Poland's Dziennik daily on Thursday.

"Poland is a medium-sized country and is not looking to be the first but
my evaluation is very clear: the presence of politicians at the
inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate," Tusk said.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus also announced a personal boycott
Wednesday, but said his decision was unlikely to weigh heavily on the
Chinese government.

"I am not sure that the absence of a politician from the Olympic Games
opening ceremony will serve as a warning. This applies even more so for
a politician from a country that has 130 times fewer inhabitants," he said.

US-based Human Rights Watch on Thursday called for an independent
investigation of the unrest and said China must allow more access to the
Himalayan region.

Tibet's government-in-exile has said 140 people were killed in the
unrest, while China has reported a total of 20 deaths.

"It's very difficult to get accurate information about what's going on
there. We are calling for an independent investigation into Tibet to be
able to ascertain what's happening," said Elaine Pearson, the group's
deputy director for Asia, who was on a visit to the Philippines.

She noted that while China had allowed a small press contingent into
Tibet on Wednesday, their movements were tightly controlled.

"China should be allowing journalists to enter Tibet to be able to
report what's really going on there," she said.

A group of top French athletes Thursday launched an open petition to
Chinese President Hu, asking him to respect human rights and not "spoil
the games," according to the letter printed in Le Nouvel Observateur weekly.

The protests against China's rule of Tibet began in Lhasa on March 10,
the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Four days later, the protests turned bloody and spread into other parts
of Tibet.

A prominent Euro MP, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, has meanwhile called for
"mayhem in Beijing" during the Olympic Games, with a boycott of the
opening ceremony and high-profile protests over the Chinese crackdown.

"We have to make the Chinese Communists truly regret wanting to organise
the Games," the Green member of the European Parliament and a leader of
the 1968 French student revolt, said.
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