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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Olympic flame to hit snowy London streets amid Tibet controversy

April 8, 2008

LONDON, April 6, 2008 (AFP) — The Olympic torch was to be carried
through London's snow-covered streets on Sunday in a relay expected to
be marked by protests over China's crackdown in Tibet.

The flame for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing arrived in the British
capital Saturday amid controversy surrounding planned pro-Tibet

The flame, kept alive in a lantern amid blustery conditions, arrived at
Heathrow Airport by plane from Saint Petersburg. It was greeted by a
welcome party before being whisked off to spend the night a hotel in an
undisclosed location.

Ahead of the relay's start due at 10:30 am (0930 GMT), heavy snow fell
across London and many parts of Britain overnight and Sunday morning.

Chinese ambassador Fu Ying and Britain's Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell
were among the dignitaries who greeted the flame's arrival.

Tibetan exiles and rights groups are planning to demonstrate when the
torch is paraded through London -- and then in Paris on Monday and San
Francisco two days later.

Beijing has faced international criticism over its crackdown on
anti-Chinese protests in Tibet that began on March 10 in Tibet's
capital, Lhasa, and which have spread to other areas of western China
with Tibetan populations.

Tibetans have been protesting over what they say has been widespread
repression under nearly six decades of Chinese rule.

London's Metropolitan Police expects six organisations -- including the
Free Tibet movement, Falungong and the Burma Campaign -- will send about
500 protestors to demonstrate in the Britain's capital on Sunday.

Campaigners are hoping to breach a massive security operation, according
to various British media reports. Some 2,000 police officers will be out
in force to protect the torch procession.

"The relationship between China and Tibet will be very much the focus,"
Jowell told BBC television at Heathrow.

"The pictures of lawful and peaceful protest by people on the route of
the torch relay in London will be in marked contrast to some of the
scenes that we've seen from China and makes a very clear statement about
the importance of freedom in our country."

The Olympic flame was relayed across Saint Petersburg on Saturday as
part of its 130-day global journey towards the August 8-24 Games in Beijing.

In London, an array of British sports and entertainment stars were to
carry the torch from Wembley Stadium, via the site of the London 2012
Olympic Games, to finish at the O2, formerly known as the Millennium Dome.

Steve Redgrave, Britain's greatest Olympian, will start the relay of
some 80 torch bearers.

"People have realised athletes are a cheap hit, a way to get publicity
for whatever cause they're trying to fight for," the rower, who won gold
medals at five successive Games, wrote in The Guardian newspaper Saturday.

"Sportspeople... should not be misused to make a point."

Among those due to carry the torch were sailor Ellen MacArthur, runner
Kelly Holmes, tennis player Tim Henman, footballer Theo Walcott, rugby
player Kenny Logan, rower Ed Coode, cricketer Kevin Pietersen, violinist
Vanessa Mae, singers the Sugababes, rugby coach Clive Woodward and
heptathlete Denise Lewis.

Stand-up comedian Francesca Martinez withdrew Thursday in protest over
the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.

It was unclear whether Fu would participate in the relay as planned.

Some 80,000 spectators are expected to greet the procession, which will
also be met by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at his Downing Street

"Meeting the torch is not in any way condoning the completely
unacceptable ... denial of democracy and freedoms in China," Jowell said.

Brown has brushed aside criticism of his plans to attend Olympic
ceremonies in Beijing, insisting it is the right thing to do as London
will host the 2012 summer Games.
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