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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Himalayan snowfall hits Everest Olympic torch bid (IHT)

May 6, 2008

By Nick Mulvenney
The International Herald Tribune/Reuters 
May 3, 2008

EVEREST BASE CAMP, China: China's bold plan to take a special Olympic torch to the top of Mount Everest faced a possible setback on Saturday as snow fell on the world's highest mountain.

The climbing team has been at 6,500 metres (21,300 feet) in advanced base camp or higher for at least two days, waiting for better weather to take the flame to the 8,848-metre (29,030-foot) peak and claim the crowning moment of a relay that was marred by anti-China protests on its round-the-world journey.

"It's normal to have snow in mountain areas," said Suonam Cuomu, deputy director of the Everest torch logistics department. "We are very well prepared. It's not necessarily bad news because after snow there is often a few days of good weather.

"But the heavy snow will have an effect on route building in the mountains," she told a media briefing.

Officials said they were unaware of conditions on Everest as they were still awaiting data from the meteorological centre.

"In my experience, in heavy snow you could make a decision to retreat or abandon, but I don't know the conditions up the mountain so it's difficult to say," said Beijing organising committee consultant Liu Jian.

"For mountaineers, the snow we can see down here is not that heavy," added Liu, who has climbed the highest mountain on each of the seven continents and reached the north and south poles.

"Generally speaking, snow in the Mount Qomolangma (Everest) area can last a day or a week. Obviously, we all hope it stops soon."

The snowfall left base camp and the nearby media centre effectively snowbound, with one journalist unable to get to hospital in the town of Shigatse for treatment of chronic toothache.

Organisers said there were plans in place to evacuate anyone with more serious medical problems.

"We would use cars but go really slowly," said Suonam.

The attempt to take the Olympic flame up Everest was intended as a showpiece, separate leg of the torch relay ahead of August's Beijing Games.

The main torch relay was dogged by anti-Chinese protests and counter-protests over Tibet as it travelled across five continents, but it now faces a joyous welcome as it heads into mainland China this week.

(Editing by John Chalmers)

(Take a look at the Countdown to Beijing blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/china)
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