Miliband rules out Olympic boycott by Europe
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband today flatly rejected pressure for a Europe-wide boycott of the Olympic Games in response to China’s crackdown on Tibet.
He said he had no plans to attend the opening ceremony himself, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown would be there – along with many other EU leaders.
Mr Miliband was speaking on arrival for weekend talks between EU foreign ministers in Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia.
The growing controversy over how to respond to the crisis in Tibet is on the agenda for discussion over lunch tomorrow – but there is little appetite in any EU country for using the Olympics as a political lever to force a change of heart in Beijing.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made clear he is keeping open the option of a boycott of the Olympic opening ceremony – but as he will be holding the EU presidency at the time, he is duty bound to seek the view of all other EU leaders before taking any unilateral measures.
The Czech, Polish, German and Estonian leaders will not be at the opening ceremony, but most EU governments share the UK view that politics and sport should be kept apart.
Tomorrow Mr Miliband will argue that instead of threatening boycotts, EU countries should be urging restraint on the Chinese authorities and stepping up contacts with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, who is in exile in India.
He also wants concerted pressure on Beijing to open talks with the Dalai Lama, who has himself rejected the idea of an Olympic boycott.
China, meanwhile, insists it has been acting with restraint in response to three weeks of protests in Tibet against Chinese rule.
And a statement issued in Beijing anticipated the discussions between EU foreign ministers by warning Europe not to interfere in an internal Chinese matter and not to encourage further dissent among the Dalai Lama’s supporters.
Earlier this week, Karma Chophel, head of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, visited the European Parliament in Brussels to urge support for the protests.
It is a view expected to be shared by most EU ministers meeting in Slovenia this weekend.
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