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Sarkozy 'regrets' uproar over Dalai Lama meeting

December 13, 2008

The Associated Press
Friday, December 12, 2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium: French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday he "regrets" tensions with China over his recent meeting with the Dalai Lama and expressed confidence that relations would soon improve.
Sarkozy bristled at the "advice" China gave him not to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader, whom China considers a separatist. Sarkozy insisted that France is a friend of China, not a "vassal."
"I regret this friction," Sarkozy said at an EU summit in Brussels. "It is in Europe's interest to have good relations with China and it is in China's interest to have good relations with Europe."
Sarkozy met with the Tibetan leader last weekend in Poland, prompting a high-level diplomatic protest from China. Chinese officials were particularly upset that Sarkozy held the meeting while France holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and was therefore seen as representing the entire 27-nation bloc.
"We will find the means to talk again, but not at the price of denying our own European values," Sarkozy said.
Sarkozy said that France-China trade was good for both countries — an apparent appeal to thwart a repeat of the Chinese backlash against French goods earlier this year, also over Tibet. It followed pro-Tibetan protests on the streets of Paris during the Olympic torch relay in April.
Chinese officials called Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama "arrogant" and a "rude intervention" in its internal affairs and urged France to "take responsibility and concrete measures" to repair strained ties.
Sarkozy insisted Friday, as he did after meeting the Dalai Lama, that he considers "there is only one China."
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