McCain meets France's Sarkozy

March 21, 2008 6:39:05 PM PDT
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain said Friday that China is harming its world image with its crackdown in Tibet and expressed hope Beijing would seek a peaceful solution to the crisis. McCain did not discuss the issue during a 45-minute meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but told reporters later the subject was "one of the first things I would talk about if I were president of the United States today."

China's crackdown "is not correct," McCain said in the courtyard of the French presidential Elysee Palace.

"The people there are being subjected to mistreatment that is not acceptable with the conduct of a world power, which China is," McCain said in response to a question by a Chinese television journalist.

"There must be respect for human rights, and I would hope that the Chinese are actively seeking a peaceful resolution to this situation that exists which harms not only the human rights of the people there but also the image of China in the world."

The White House has urged Beijing to respect Tibetan culture and multi-ethnicity in its society.

McCain was in Paris for a matter of hours at the end of a weeklong tour of the Middle East and Europe. He was traveling as part of a U.S. congressional delegation - including Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. - that visited Iraq, Jordan, Israel and London.

The delegation discussed a range of issues with Sarkozy, from climate warming and nuclear energy to the Middle East crisis, Iraq and Afghanistan, where France has troops.

McCain praised the state of U.S. relations with France, crediting Sarkozy, who was elected in May, with the high level of ties after years of tension that followed Paris' lead role in opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq five years ago.

"I think our relations with France will improve no matter who is the president of the United States," he said.

The Arizona senator and apparent GOP presidential nominee has faced criticism from Democrats for not covering more of the cost of his overseas trip.

The McCain campaign said Thursday it would reimburse the federal government about $3,000 for political travel expenses incurred during his current trip to the Middle East and Europe.

Before traveling to Paris, McCain on Thursday was in Britain, where he attended a $1,000-per-person fundraising lunch at London's Spencer House. McCain has been traveling with Sens. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., both supporters of his candidacy. The group had already been to Iraq, Jordan and Israel. The campaign has defended the mostly taxpayer financed trip as crucial for members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Under terms reviewed by the Federal Election Commission and the Senate ethics committee, McCain will reimburse the federal government $3,000 for a one-night stay at a London hotel and first-class airfare from Washington to London because of the political nature of the event there. McCain had already agreed to pay more than $2,000 for the flight home.