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France Attempts to Mend Relations with China


French President Nicholas Sarkozy is sending envoys to repair relations with China after nation-wide anti-French protests. China has sought to cool nationalist tempers, but warned Paris is seriously harming relations. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

French Senate President Christian Poncelet delivered a private letter from the French President to Jin Jing condemning an aggressive move against her. The wheelchair-bound Chinese athlete became a symbol of Chinese outrage after a protester tried to grab the Olympic torch from her during the Paris leg of the relay.

The demonstrations in Paris were some of the largest the torch relay has faced on its world tour.

Protesters have sought to bring attention to China's heavy-handed rule of Tibet, human-rights violations and dealings with authoritarian governments.

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the Chinese people welcomed the French president's letter.

She says they also hope that President Sarkozy and the French government can uphold justice on Tibet and the Olympics, and understand and support the Chinese government's necessary and justified measures to safeguard social order and safety of both lives and property.

China cut off Tibetan areas from foreign journalists and tourists in March after anti-government protests turned deadly. The move was condemned internationally, but led to a backlash from some Chinese.

Beijing has blamed the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for the violent clashes. The central government is widely supported by Chinese who say Tibet has always been a part of China.

Thousands of Chinese protested in major cities during the weekend, targeting stores of the French retailer Carrefour as well as the French Embassy and a French school in Beijing. Some called for a boycott of French goods.

The Chinese government has urged protesters to channel their energy constructively.

But Jiang warned France it seriously harmed relations after the Paris city council declared the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen.

In a statement on the Foreign Ministry website, Jiang said the act would only encourage what she called the arrogance of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence supporters. She said the symbolic award would be considered a severe provocation by all Chinese people, including Tibetans.

A former French prime minister and President Sarkozy's diplomatic advisor are also scheduled to visit China this week to repair the damaged relations.

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