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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Sarkozy defends Beijing decision

July 11, 2008

The Associated Press
July 10, 2008

STRASBOURG, France -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday
defended his decision to attend the opening of the Olympic Games in
Beijing, saying it would be wrong to "humiliate" China with a boycott.

But he also insisted he would raise human rights concerns with the
Chinese leadership and chastised Beijing for pressure aimed at
persuading him to drop plans to meet with exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

"I happen to think that humiliating China is not the best way to
respect human rights," Sarkozy told critics in the European
Parliament. "I don't think you can boycott 1.3 billion people, a
quarter of the world's population."

He also said: "There are things I will not say because China deserves
respect, but there are things that China must not tell European
countries. It's not for China to set my agenda, to say who I will meet."

China's ambassador to Paris said a meeting between Sarkozy and the
Dalai Lama would have "serious" consequences. But French Foreign
Minister Bernard Kouchner's office replied by telling the ambassador
that France would reject "pressures wherever they come from."

U.S. President George W. Bush has also decided to attend the opening
of the Games. He said this week it would be an "affront to the
Chinese people" if he stayed away. British Prime Minister Gordon
Brown has said he will skip the opener but attend the closer. German
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
have said they plan to stay away

Sarkozy's announcement Wednesday that he will attend the Aug. 8
ceremony opening of the Beijing Olympics, after previously suggested
he might boycott the event, sparked widespread dismay from human
rights campaigners.

Criticism in the European Parliament was led by Green leader Daniel
Cohn-Bendit, who suggested the decision was taken in order to promote
French exports in China. Cohn-Bendit told Sarkozy the decision was "a
disgrace."

"I will go, I will talk about human rights, I will defend human
rights," Sarkozy said in reply. The French leader said he'd consulted
with all 27 European Union states before making his decision and
received their support.

"China can be a factor for peace and security in the world, so can we
boycott China at this time, which is something so important for a
billion people?" he asked.

By engaging China, Sarkozy said Europe could aim to secure Chinese
support to end violence in Darfur and isolate Iran, if it doesn't
change it nuclear program.

China is a supporter of the Sudanese government, which is blamed by
Western governments for much of the bloodshed in the troubled
province of Darfur. China also is part of an international group
seeking to persuade Iran to bring its nuclear program in line with
U.N. norms, but has been reluctant to support Western demands for
stronger sanctions against Tehran.

Sarkozy had been the first world leader to raise the possibility of
skipping the ceremony to protest China's crackdown in Tibet, after
riots and protests there in March. That would have been a slap in the
face to China's communist leadership, eager to use the Games to show
off the country's power and clout.

But the statement Wednesday from Sarkozy's office, issued after he
met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the Group of
Eight summit of industrialized powers in Japan, made no mention of
Tibet or human rights.

It said France wants to "deepen its strategic partnership with China"
? which is a major client for European plane manufacturer Airbus, as
well as French companies from nuclear giant Areva to transport and
engineering company Alstom.
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