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French President Rejects China's Pressure Over Possible Meeting With Dalai Lama


French President Nicolas Sarkozy has rejected warnings from China against meeting with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, when he visits France next month.

Speaking to European lawmakers in Strasbourg Thursday, Mr. Sarkozy said it is not up to China to set his agenda or his meetings.

Earlier this week, China's ambassador to France, Kong Quan, warned that a possible meeting between the French president and the Dalai Lama could have serious consequences for Sino-French relations.

Mr. Sarkozy also defended his decision to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games as French president and as the rotating head of the European Union.

Some European lawmakers criticized Mr. Sarkozy's decision to attend, but he stressed to lawmakers today that he had the approval of all 27 member states.

Mr. Sarkozy had previously hinged his attendance at the August 8 ceremony on progress in China's talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives.

But on Wednesday, he confirmed his intention to attend during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Japan.

Following his announcement, the head of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering said he would not attend, citing a lack of progress in China's talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama.

Chinese officials welcomed Mr. Sarkozy's decision calling it the "correct" choice.

Relations between China and France have been tense in recent months. During the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay in April, massive protests were staged, criticizing China's human rights record and policies toward Tibet.

The protests angered the Chinese government and the general public in China which reacted by staging anti-French rallies and calling for a boycott of French firms and products.

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