France summons Chinese envoy over Dalai Lama
AFP[Thursday, July 10, 2008 12:40]
PARIS -- French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday he had called in China's ambassador over his comments warning of serious consequences if President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama.

"I was very surprised by the remarks of the Chinese ambassador. I have asked him to come and see me (...) to explain his position which appears to be difficult for France to accept," said Kouchner.

Chinese Ambassador to France Kong Quan on Tuesday warned of "serious consequences" to Sino-French relations if Sarkozy met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader during his visit to France next month.

"If such a meeting took place, it would have serious consequences because it would be contrary to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs," the ambassador told reporters in Paris, without elaborating. Kouchner declined to say whether France would respond but added: "It's up to the president to decide" whether he wants to meet with the Dalai Lama.

The warning from the Chinese ambassador came ahead of a meeting in Japan between Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu Jintao during which the French president announced that he would be attending the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Sarkozy had threatened to boycott the August 8 ceremony unless Beijing showed progress in its talks with the Dalai Lama over the status of Tibet.

The meeting between Sarkozy and Hu on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit capped months of strains in relations following the chaotic Olympic torch relay through Paris in April that was disrupted by human rights protesters angry at Beijing's crackdown in Tibet.

Sarkozy has left open the possibility of holding face-to-face talks with the Dalai Lama, who has met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President George W. Bush.

The Dalai Lama is due to pay a visit to France from Aug. 12 to 23 to attend a conference on Buddhism in the western city of Nantes.

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