Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sarkozy's Salvo on Beijing Boycott

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sarkozy's Salvo on Beijing Boycott

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS CECIL

FRENCH president Nicolas Sarkozy today clashed with Gordon Brown over apossible boycott of the Olympics in China.

Mr Sarkozy raised the threat of staying away from this year's Games overBeijing's handling of protests in Tibet.

However, within hours Downing Street insisted that Britain will remain opposedto a boycott.

On the first day of a state visit to Britain, Mr Sarkozy called for a new"Franco- British brotherhood". But he sparked an immediate rift with Mr Brownby dangling the possibility of the boycott.

The president said: "Our Chinese friends must understand the worldwide concernthat there is about the question of Tibet.

I don't close the door to any option, but I think it's more prudent to reservemy responses to concrete developments in the situation. I will graduate myresponse according to the response given by China." The Prime Minister andother Cabinet ministers have rejected a boycott as a way to put pressure onChina to stop violent repression of protesters in Tibet.

A Downing Street spokesman said this morning: "Our position in relation to theOlympics has not changed. We do not support a boycott of the Olympics." Britainand France are, though, united in their call for Beijing to open talks with theDalai Lama.

Mr Brown recently spoke to Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to try to broker talksbetween him and the Tibetan spiritual leader whom the Prime Minister will meetwhen he visits this country in May.

Mr Sarkozy is due to meet the Queen and Mr Brown on his two-day visit toBritain, accompanied by his new wife Italian supermodel turned singer CarlaBruni.

The 53-year-old is keen to use the first full state visit by a French presidentfor 12 years, to portray an image of himself as a world statesman following thecontroversy in France over his private life. However, much media focus willremain on the glamorous Madame Bruni-Sarkozy.

Ahead of his arrival, the French leader signalled that he wants to bury thesometimes tense relationship in recent years between France and Britain,symbolised by frequent public clashes between his predecessor

Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair, particularly over the Iraq war and America. …

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