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China Warns French President over Meeting with Dalai Lama


China is calling on French President Nicolas Sarkozy to cancel his upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama, or risk harming relations between Paris and Beijing.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang issued a statement Friday saying China opposes contact between any foreign leaders and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Qin says relations between China and France, as well as all of Europe, have been improving and should be "cherished."

Mr. Sarkozy plans to meet the Dalai Lama in Poland next month. France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, Friday rejected Beijing's claim the meeting will cause problems between the countries. He told reporters Mr. Sarkozy is handling the issue "correctly" and that he, himself, has met the Dalai Lama about 20 times.

The French president angered China earlier this year when he threatened to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games after China's harsh crackdown of protesters in Tibet in March.

Beijing accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the demonstrations.

China has accused the Dalai Lama of advocating full independence for Tibet, which has been under Chinese control since 1950. The exiled leader says he wants genuine autonomy for Tibetans to protect their religion and culture.

But recent talks between his representatives and Beijing have made little progress, and the Dalai Lama recently said he was losing hope in the possibility of negotiating a settlement with Beijing over the future of Tibet.

Tibetan exile groups will meet later this month to discuss whether to continue negotiations for Tibetan autonomy, or take more radical measures, such as supporting independence.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese communist rule.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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