BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 14: European Union leaders appealed to China on Friday to show restraint toward demonstrators in Tibet and France's foreign minister said Paris was keeping its options open on whether to take further measures, possibly relating to the Olympics.
The EU statement steered clear of any mention of the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games, but when asked whether France was not going to take action on the Olympics, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said "wait," adding mockingly "we can do nothing"
The statement "makes no mention of the Olympics, but we can talk," Kouchner said.
He said France was not backing a boycott of the Olympics. "But France can draw the attention to the link between the Olympic Games and this Tibetan aspiration, which China has to take into account," Kouchner said.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana sought to assuage the Beijing authorities. "As far as the Olympic Games are concerned I intend to be there," he told reporters.
Kouchner said the EU's condemnation of China's handling of protests in Tibet was strong considering it came from the entire 27-nation bloc.
The appeal came after reports of gunfire during the largest demonstrations in the Tibetan capital in nearly two decades.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband insisted that «all European countries will be seeking clarification,» on the days of rioting and demonstrations in the streets of Tibet's ancient capital, Lhasa, to protest Chinese rule.
"There are two messages, one is the need for restraint, the others is that substantive dialogue is the only way forward," Miliband said.
Olympic organizers have been extremely touchy about political criticism, hoping the Games will be a celebration of the country's coming of age as a world power.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has said his organization should not be pressuring China about its human rights record, arguing it is better to leave such issues to the politicians. The EU took up that challenge on Friday.
This week marked the anniversary of the 1959 uprising that forced the Dalai Lama into exile, and Tibetan exiles around the world used the day to protest China's hosting of the summer Olympics.
Exiles demonstrated in New Delhi, India, and Katmandu, Nepal. In Dharmsala, India, hundreds of Tibetans started a six-month march to their homeland.
Witnesses in Lhasa on Friday reported hearing gunfire and seeing vehicles in flames in the city's main Barkor shopping district. Crowds hurled rocks at security forces and at restaurant and hotel windows.
The protests that began Monday, initially led by hundreds of Buddhist monks, appeared to be attracting large numbers of Tibetans.