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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?"

EU urges China to hold dialogue on Tibet

March 31, 2008

By Marcin Grajewski and Marja Novak

BRDO, Slovenia, March 29 (Reuters) - The European Union called on
Saturday for an end to violence in Tibet and urged China to hold a
dialogue on Tibetan cultural and religious rights but avoided linking
the issue to the Olympic Games.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the 27-member bloc wanted
Beijing to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader, noting he advocated non-violence and autonomy, not
independence.

"It's in everybody's interest, including the interest of the Dalai Lama
and of the Chinese government, to have a dialogue as soon as possible,"
he said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

In a joint text the bloc avoided any reference to the Beijing Olympic
Games in August, after a week of public differences over whether to
boycott the opening ceremony.

"The EU condemns all violence and pays its respect to the victims. It
calls for an end to the violence and asks that arrested persons be
treated in conformity with international standards," the statement said.

The text called for a "substantive and constructive dialogue which
addresses the core issues like preservation of the Tibetan language,
culture, religion and traditions."

The ministers sought a joint line under public pressure to step up the
EU's response to the unrest, in which China says 19 people have died but
the Tibetan government-in-exile says up to 140 have been killed.

But they watered down a draft declaration, removing a reference to
"repression" and to the impending Olympics.

"DICTATORSHIPS"

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a former human rights
campaigner, nevertheless called it "a very firm message which attests to
the total unity of the 27", adding that no one had wanted to discuss a
boycott of the Olympics.

But differences over the Olympics rumbled on, with Czech Foreign
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg telling reporters: "I don't see why we
should be represented at some opening ceremony.

"These things are very apt to be used by dictatorships," he said
referring to the Moscow (1980) and Berlin (1936) Olympics.

"After all these years we should have learnt what the game is. (It is
to) show for the benefit of those in power, who display all the glory
and all of the show of the Games."

Given China's huge importance to the EU as an export market and
investment magnet, diplomats said there was no prospect of economic or
political sanctions.

Five months before the Beijing Olympics, it was too early to take any
decision on attendance since the situation could change in Tibet and on
other issues in China, ministers said. (Additional reporting by Mark
John; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
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