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Pressure Mounts over PM's Unanswered Olympic Invitation

June 10, 2008

By Olympics reporter Lisa Millar
ABC News (Australia)
June 9, 2008

Fifty-nine days out from the Beijing Olympics, Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd is still refusing to say if he will attend.

It is a chance for Mr Rudd to support Australian athletes at the
Games, but on the eve of the Dalai Lama's arrival in Australia, he is
facing an increasingly difficult political situation, refusing to say
if he will go.

"We're still sorting out a few things on that," Mr Rudd said when
pressed on the issue.

The Federal Opposition says it is simple - that bilateral interests come first.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Robb says he thinks Mr
Rudd should attend.

"I don't understand all the equivocation. It seems a bit tricky to
me," he said.

Mr Rudd has always ruled out a boycott of the games.

But until he officially accepts the invitation to attend, the
perception remains that Mr Rudd is avoiding a decision on what is set
to be the most politically charged games in decades.

A handful of world leaders, including French President Nicholas
Sarkozy, are still threatening a boycott.

After the riots in Tibet and the anger over the torch relay fuelled
pressure for a boycott, Greens leader Bob Brown says he is glad Mr
Rudd is holding out.

"The world has demonstrated its concern for the rights of Tibetans," he said.

"Hu Jintao should meet the Dalai Lama before the Olympics. If he
doesn't, our head of state should stay away. Our Prime Minister
should stay away."

Mr Rudd's office is adamant he has not made a final decision, and the
ABC understands that is causing growing anxiety in Olympic circles.

Into that mix comes another political dilemma, with the Tibetan
leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, arriving in Australia tomorrow.

Mr Rudd is also refusing to say if he will meet the Dalai Lama on his
return from Japan and Indonesia this week.

"It's a very important opportunity for Kevin Rudd this weekend to
meet the Dalai Lama and encourage the next steps and talk in concrete
terms about how to move forward," Simon Bradshaw from the Tibet Council said.

With the next round of talks between China and the Tibetan government
now delayed till the end of the month, whatever Mr Rudd chooses to do
will be seen as highly symbolic.
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