Sarkozy to attend Olympics opener

11:36, 09 July 2008

Sarkozy informed Chinese President...

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will attend the opening of the Beijing Olympics next month, his office said Wednesday, putting an end to his threat to boycott the event over China`s treatment of Tibet, according to CNN.

Sarkozy informed Chinese President Hu Jintao of his decision during talks on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit of industrialized powers in Japan, his office said.

"The chief of state stressed the Olympic values of peace, friendship and brotherhood, and wished great success to the Beijing Olympic Games," the statement said, adding that Sarkozy "confirmed his intention" to attend the August 8 ceremony.

For months, the French president had left open the possibility of boycotting the event to show disapproval of China`s violent crackdown on Tibet after riots and protests there in March.

Sarkozy had pushed the two sides to talk, saying he could attend the opening if discussions between China and envoys of the Dalai Lama, Tibet`s exiled spiritual leader, made more progress.

The Dalai Lama is expected to visit France in August. The French president has said in the past that it is "possible" he might meet with the visiting Tibetan leader, though China disapproves of such contacts.

Wednesday`s statement made no mention of the Dalai Lama or the talks between his envoys and the Chinese. It said Sarkozy consulted his European Union partners about his decision to attend the ceremony, and he will represent both France and the 27-nation EU there. France currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

Sarkozy and other world leaders have been under intense pressure from human rights groups to skip the event.

The media advocacy group Reporters without Borders, which helped organize massive protests when the Olympic flame passed through Paris in April, said recently that Sarkozy would heap "scorn on his commitments to the French people" if he attended.

U.S. President George W. Bush has also confirmed his attendance, saying this week at the summit in Japan that it would be an "affront to the Chinese people" if he did not attend the ceremony.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he would skip the opener but attend the closer. Neither German Chancellor Angela Merkel nor Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper plan to attend the opening event, a 3-1/2-hour opening ceremony of fireworks, dancing by ethnic groups and performances portraying 5,000 years of Chinese history.

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

Their talks are important to China`s hopes of hosting a flawless Olympic Games. Some experts believe Beijing agreed to the discussions to ease global criticism that it was too heavy-handed in its response to the March violence. China has governed Tibet since communist troops marched into the Himalayan region in the 1950s.

If you see a spelling error on our site, select it and press Ctrl+Enter