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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Sarkozy says he will not meet Dalai Lama in France

August 8, 2008

August 6, 2008

PARIS (AP) -- First, French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to
boycott the opening of the Beijing Olympics. Then he backed down.
Now, he is heaping praise on China's leadership and avoiding a
meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"If the organization of the Olympics were a sport ... we should give
China the gold medal," Sarkozy said in an interview with China's
Xinhua news agency released Wednesday. He said he was "greatly
delighted at the prospect of going to Beijing."

Sarkozy has been under pressure from Chinese officials and human
rights activists to make a decision on whether to see the Dalai Lama
when the Tibetan spiritual leader comes to France next week. He has
not met with the Tibetan spiritual leader since taking office in May 2007.

A carefully worded statement from Sarkozy's office Wednesday
suggested it was the Dalai Lama's decision, not Sarkozy's, to forgo a
meeting. The Dalai Lama begins an 11-day stay in France on Tuesday.

"The president understands the reasons that are leading the Dalai
Lama, given the current circumstances, to not request a meeting
during his stay in France in August," the statement said.

The Dalai Lama's representative in Paris gave a slightly different version.

Jampal Chosang said in a faxed statement that the Dalai Lama
"confirmed his wish to meet the president" and that Sarkozy
"expressed his wish to meet the Dalai Lama." Chosang said such talks
would not take place during this month's visit, but his office was in
contact with Sarkozy's aides about arranging a meeting later this year.

Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, will take part in a religious
ceremony presided over by the Dalai Lama on Aug. 22 opening a
Buddhist temple near Lodeve in southern France, the president's
office said. The Dalai Lama will also meet with lawmakers in the
French Senate during his stay and hold a spiritual teaching session
in the western French city of Nantes.

Sarkozy threatened to boycott the opening of the Beijing Olympics
because of China's crackdown in Tibet earlier this year. That, and
French protests during the Olympic torch relay through Paris,
prompted a Chinese backlash.

Sarkozy later agreed to attend Friday's opening ceremony in Beijing,
but remained vague about whether he would meet the Dalai Lama.

Kong Quan, China's ambassador to France, had said there could be
"consequences" for France if such a meeting took place. Sarkozy
bristled at the public warning, saying last month, "It's not for
China to fix my agenda, or to dictate my meetings."

Sarkozy's decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama is certain to
further rile human rights defenders who accuse him of bowing to
Chinese pressure and wanting to secure major Chinese contracts for
French companies. A French poll last month said 78 percent of
respondents wanted Sarkozy to meet with the Dalai Lama.
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