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French President to Attend Opening Ceremony at Beijing Games


French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his decision to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics despite an earlier threat to boycott the event.

The French leader confirmed his intention to take part in the August 8 ceremony during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao Wednesday on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Japan. He said he would attend the ceremony as president of France and as the rotating head of the European Union.

China's official Xinhua news agency quotes Mr. Hu as welcoming the decision as the "correct" choice.

But some European Union lawmakers criticized Mr. Sarkozy's decision. The head of the European parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, announced he would not attend, citing a lack of progress in China's talks with representatives of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Mr. Sarkozy had previously said he might skip the event to protest China's crackdown in Tibet after violent protests and riots there in March.

Although today's meeting appeared to be a sign that France and China were mending ties, disputes over Tibet remain.

On Tuesday, China's ambassador to France has warned Mr. Sarkozy against meeting with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Ambassador Kong Quan told reporters in Paris that a meeting during the Dalai Lama's visit to France next month would have serious consequences for bilateral relations.

In response Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner requested a meeting with Kong Quan to explain his remarks.

The French news agency reported after the meeting the foreign ministry said in a statement that France rejects any outside pressure regarding a possible meting between Mr. Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese ambassador was quoted as reiterating that his country remains firmly opposed to such a meeting.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.


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