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PM bans Chinese guards from torch run
AAP[Monday, April 07, 2008 16:23]
Australia, April 7 - Chinese security guards will be banned from escorting the Olympic torch when it comes to Australia this month, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

A phalanx of Chinese security officials dressed in blue and white Beijing Olympic tracksuits surrounded various British athletes as they carried the torch on a chaotic run through London yesterday.

Protesters angry about China's treatment of Tibet disrupted the torch relay several times, with the Chinese security guards and local police struggling to keep them at bay.

At least 35 protesters were arrested, which Chinese officials branding the action "vile behaviour".

Mr Rudd said Australia was more than capable of protecting the torch and there would be no need for China to send its own security team to guard it in Canberra.

"As the attorney-general said in Australia some weeks ago, we will not be having Chinese security forces or Chinese security services providing security for the torch when it is in Australia," Mr Rudd told reporters during a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"We, Australia, are providing that security.

"What Olympic officials the Chinese bring to Canberra is a matter for them but on the security front, we will be providing that."

Mr Rudd's comments came as Australia considered shortening the torch relay route in Canberra, amid security fears.

Changing the route was discussed amongst organisers and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and not at the request of Chinese officials, a spokeswoman for ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said.

"It's a normal part of the process to try to ensure the torch relay, as it makes its way to through Canberra, is secure," she told AAP.

Any reconfiguration would ensure federal police were able to provide maximum security for the 80 Australian torchbearers.

"The government (also) takes veryCanberra relay task force chairman Ted Quinlan said he feared the London protests could spark a "rolling and growing movement" where activists seek to outdo each other in an effort to steal the limelight.

"My concern is that by the time it gets here, there have been a whole series of protests and that's really all everybody is expecting for the day," he said.

"Of course, we're observing what's happening world-wide day by day and making appropriate plans."

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, in Beijing for a three-day meeting of National Olympic Committee heads, said security for the torch was the responsibility of the AFP.

"We hope that the protests are peaceful, but we have every confidence in the AFP to ensure the safe journey of the torch," he said.

ACT Tibetan community president Tsering Deki said her group was planning to protest in Canberra when the torch arrives on April 24, but did not support the violent action seen in London.

"We will be protesting and we plan to be loud, but peaceful," she said.

Despite calls for him to snub the Chinese over the country's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tibet, Mr Brown welcomed the torch when it arrived at Downing Street.

However, he did not hold or touch it as it was handed between heptathlete Denise Lewis and paralympian Ali Jawad.

Asked by reporters if he would hold the torch when it arrives in Canberra, Mr Rudd said he would be at a function in Sydney while Sports Minister Kate Ellis officiates at the Olympic event.

"Britain's circumstances are obviously somewhat different," Mr Rudd said.

"They are hosting the next Olympics (in 2012) and I think that places their circumstances in a somewhat different context to perhaps a number of other participant states."

Mr Rudd has not yet confirmed if he will attend the Games opening ceremony, but has ruled out Australia boycotting the event over the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.

Both he and Mr Brown repeated their calls today for more dialogue between supporters of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dali Lama, and Chinese authorities and downplayed calls for countries to boycott the Games.

"Our position, as with the British government and others, is that there needs to be a renewed process of dialogue between the Dali's representatives and reps of the Chinese government," Mr Rudd said.

"It's my general view that these things at the level of the Olympics, don't work."
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