EU commissioner denies threat of Olympic boycott

 

European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner on Saturday denied she had made any call for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics Games over Tibet, as reported by a German weekly.

 

"I never asked for a boycott," Ferrero-Waldner told journalists on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers informal meeting in Slovenia, which currently holds the bloc's rotating presidency.

 

She added that since the Olympic games were taking place in August, the EU had plenty of time to take a decision on attending.

 

"The important thing is that we see now some activity (by the Chinese authorities)."

 

Ferrero-Waldner was reacting to a report to be published by German weekly Bild am Sonntag on Sunday that she raised the threat of a games boycott to put pressure on Chinese authorities over their handling of protests in Tibet.

 

"I've clearly said that the Olympic games should take place in an Olympic spirit, where is free media, free press," Ferrero-Waldner said.

 

She added that while she supports the right to peaceful demonstrations she had not called "for worldwide Tibetan demonstrations. I never did that."

 

"This could get out of hand, this is not my intention, I've been asking for a substantial and constructive dialogue of the Chinese authorities with the Dalai Lama or his representatives," Ferrero-Waldner argued.

 

EU foreign ministers meeting in Slovenia for the second and final day on Saturday were discussing the idea of boycotting the Olympics opening ceremony over Tibet, while keen for China to open talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

 

On Saturday, the Dalai Lama appealed to the world community to "please help" resolve the crisis in his homeland that has been rocked by deadly anti-Chinese protests.

 

The protests began in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, on March 10 and erupted into widespread riots in the city four days later. They later spread to neighbouring Chinese provinces with a heavy Tibetan presence.

 

China says rioters killed 18 innocent civilians and two police officers. But exiled Tibetan leaders have put the death toll from a Chinese crackdown at about 140 Tibetans and say another 1,000 people have been injured. (AFP)

 
 
 
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