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EU urges China to hold dialogue on Tibet
Reuters[Saturday, March 29, 2008 21:22]
By Marcin Grajewski and Marja Novak

BRDO, Slovenia, March 29: The European Union called on Saturday for an end to repression in Tibet and urged China to hold a dialogue on Tibetan cultural and religious rights, ministers said.

Emerging from the meeting, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the 27-member bloc wanted Beijing to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, after his denouncement of violence.

In a joint text the bloc would avoid direct reference to the possibility of boycotting the start of the Beijing Olympic Games in August, diplomats said, after EU countries differed on what stance to take.

"The EU condemns all violence and pays its respect to the victims. It calls for an end to the repression and asks that arrested persons be treated in conformity with international standards," the 27 EU foreign ministers were to say in their text, according to a draft document obtained by Reuters.

The text was to call for a "necessary, substantive and constructive dialogue which addresses the core issues like preservation of the Tibet (sic) language, culture, religion and traditions."

The ministers sought a joint line on China's suppression of Tibetan pro-independence protests after a week of public differences on whether to attend the Olympic opening ceremony.

PRESSURE

The EU is under public pressure to step up its response to the unrest, in which China says 19 people have died but the Tibetan government-in-exile says up to 140 have been killed. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of inciting the riots.

Differences over the Olympics issue rumbled on, with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg telling reporters: "I don't see why we should be represented at some opening ceremony.

"These things are very apt to be used by dictatorships," he said referring to the Moscow (1980) and Berlin (1936) Olympics.
"After all these years we should have learnt what the game is. (It is to) show for the benefit of those in power, who display all the glory and all of the show of the Games."

Most ministers who spoke on Friday and Saturday were against a boycott, although French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will hold the EU presidency at that time, has mooted the possibility.

Britain, which will host the next Olympics in 2012, said its sports minister will attend the inauguration and Prime Minister Gordon Brown will be present at the closing ceremony.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner mooted the idea of sending an EU diplomatic fact-finding mission to Tibet and said the time before the Olympics should be used to press for human rights and media access.

Given China's huge importance to the EU as an export market and investment magnet, diplomats said there was no prospect of economic or political sanctions.

Five months before the Beijing Olympics, it was too early to take any decision on attendance since the situation could change in Tibet and on other issues in China, they said.

(Additional reporting by Mark John; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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