Sarkozy says he Could Attend Beijing Olympics

June 30, 2008 1:26:43 PM PDT
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, apparently backing off a boycott threat, said Monday he could attend the opening of the Beijing Olympics if talks between China and the Dalai Lama make more progress. Representatives of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader are expected to meet this week with Chinese officials for two days of discussions.

Sarkozy has pushed the two sides to talk. He said Monday on French television that progress has been made, and that if the talks make more headway he could go to Beijing. He said he would make his decision known early next week.

"I think it is progressing well," he said. "If there was continued progress and if the Dalai Lama and the Chinese president acknowledged the progress, then the obstacle to my participation would be lifted."

Sarkozy had left open the possibility of boycotting the Aug. 8 ceremonies to take a stand against China's crackdown on Tibet, after riots and protests there in March.

Sarkozy reiterated Monday that the events in Tibet were "not acceptable," but he also warned against angering a power of China's size.

"We absolutely must not push a population of 1.3 billion people into wounded nationalism," he said.

Sarkozy said he was in contact with Chinese President Hu Jintao and the Dalai Lama, who is expected to visit France in August. The French president said it is "possible" he might meet with the visiting Tibetan leader, even though China frowns on such contacts.

International pressure has built on both China and the Dalai Lama for an easing of tensions following the anti-government riots that rocked Tibet.

Two representatives of the Tibetan spiritual leader arrived in Beijing on Monday evening. Envoys Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen will meet Chinese officials for two days of talks beginning Tuesday, said Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Tibetan government in exile based in Dharmsala, India.

The meetings follow informal talks held in early May in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen that ended with an offer from Beijing for future discussions.