Sarkozy says "yes" to Beijing Olympics

BEIJING, July 10 - China hopes relations with France will improve, a spokesman said on Thursday, after the French President said he would attend the Beijing Olympics.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday he would go to next month's games after earlier saying it depended on China's willingness to talk to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader seeking autonomy for his homeland.

China says Tibet is a domestic affair, and Sarkozy's stance had brought testy official comments from Beijing.
"It can't be denied that recently Chinese-French ties experienced some circumstances they should not have," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference in Beijing, echoing remarks a day earlier by President Hu Jintao.

"Our hope is that both sides can as soon as possible turn this page over through their joint efforts," Liu added.

China denounced unrest across the Tibetan regions in March as a plot by the Dalai's "clique" -- a claim he repeatedly rejected.
Two meetings between envoys of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and Chinese officials have taken place since the unrest.

Many Chinese were angered by protests against their government's presence in Tibet that upset the international Olympic torch relay in Paris and other Western cities, and Chinese newspapers recently brandished Internet polls showing that citizens would not welcome Sarkozy at the Games.

"Sarkozy forced to surrender to China," announced the Thursday front page of the Global Times, a tabloid that often dwells on nationalist themes.

Spokesman Liu brushed aside questions about Sarkozy possibly receiving a cold public shoulder in Beijing, and did not dwell on the possibility that the French President may meet the Dalai Lama in Paris in August.

"As long as both leaders, both governments, are facing in the direction of developing and improving [ties], I'm sure they'll receive the support and understanding of both countries' people," Liu said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner summoned the Chinese ambassador to France, Kong Quan, on Wednesday to ask him about his comments warning Sarkozy not to meet the Dalai Lama.

Kong was quoted in the French press on Wednesday as saying there would be "serious consequences" if Sarkozy met the Dalai in Paris in August.

China says the exiled Tibetan monk really wants outright independence for his homeland and is irked by his frequent meetings with foreign political leaders.

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