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IOC Chief Brushes Aside Calls for Boycott of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games


The head of the International Olympic Committee has brushed aside calls for a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and concerns over China's policy toward Sudan.

In an interview Friday with French broadcaster France 24, Jacques Rogge said that the IOC's role was to organize the Olympic Games, not solve the world's problems.

Rogge added that the IOC is a sports organization, not a political one, or a body with humanitarian goals. But, he said he believes that the Games will contribute greatly to the evolution of China.

U.S. film director Steven Spielberg this week quit his position as artistic adviser to the 2008 Games to protest what he says is a lack of Chinese commitment to resolve the Darfur conflict.

Rogge said he respects Spielberg's decision, but doubted it would have any impact on the Games.

More than 200,000 people have died and more than two million others have been displaced in Darfur since 2003, when fighting erupted between rebels and government-backed Arab militias.

China is a major ally of Sudan, and imports nearly two thirds of that country's oil. Critics note that China has repeatedly used its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to prevent tough punitive measures against Sudan.

U.S. President George Bush, who travels to Africa today, says he still plans to attend the Beijing Olympic Games in August, despite the controversy over China's relationship with Sudan.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation aired late Thursday, Mr. Bush said he regards the Olympics as a sporting event.

Chinese and Sudanese officials have expressed their regret over Spielberg's decision, but say they are confident it will have little impact on the Games.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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