French president may boycott Olympics opening

March 25, 2008 7:14:33 AM PDT
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that he cannot rule out the possibility he might boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics if China continues its crackdown in Tibet. Asked whether he supported a boycott, Sarkozy said he could "not close the door to any possibility." A spokesman for the president said Sarkozy was referring to a possible snub of the Aug. 8 opening ceremony.

"Our Chinese friends must understand the worldwide concern that there is about the question of Tibet, and I will adapt my response to the evolutions in the situation that will come, I hope, as rapidly as possible," the president said during a visit with a military regiment in southwest France.

Sarkozy also said he had told Chinese President Hu Jintao of his concern, asking for restraint, dialogue and the end of violence in Tibet.

Sarkozy also disclosed contacts between his office and that of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

"I have an envoy who spoke to the authorities who are closest to the Dalai Lama," Sarkozy said. "I want dialogue to begin, and I will gauge my response on the response that the Chinese authorities give."

Violent protests in Tibet, the most serious challenge in almost two decades to China's rule in the region, are forcing human rights campaigners to re-examine their approach to the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games.

Sarkozy has come under increasing pressure to take a stance on the violence, especially after a Paris-based press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, last week appealed for an opening ceremony boycott by heads of state and government, as well as royalty.