04/11/2008, 00.00
CINA – UNITED NATIONS – TIBET
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Ban Ki-moon staying away from Olympic Opening Ceremony

The European Union and the United States are urging dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Kenya’s Nobel Prize laureate Wangari Maathai refuses to carry the Olympic torch. Non violent protests are expected in Buenos Aires. China tells Rogge it will not discuss human rights.

New York (AsiaNews) – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will not attend the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics because of an unspecified scheduling problem, a UN spokeswoman said. Mr Ban’s decision comes at a time when government leaders are coming under increasing pressure from public opinion to send China a clear message of condemnation for its crackdown in Tibet.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have communicated their intention of not going. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has not ruled out that possibility.

Yesterday the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on European Union leaders to boycott the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games if Beijing does not renew the dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

A similar resolution was voted by the US House of Representatives backed by its speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile the torch is now in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Here too a repeat of the demonstrations that marred its passage in London, Paris and San Francisco is expected.

Several thousand police are to line the planned 13 kilometres route in the only Latin American leg of the torch relay. Argentinian and Tibetan human rights activists have said that they have prepared non violent protests to raise awareness around the world.

The torch will then leave the Americas for Africa. But Kenya’s 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai has withdrawn from the torch relay's leg, due to concerns over human rights in Tibet and the state of the environment in China.

Despite the growing protest no international figure or political group is calling for a total boycott of the Olympics. The Dalai Lama himself said the Chinese people deserve the Games.

Tense relations between the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and China’s Foreign Ministry seem on the mend. Rogge had expressed his concern over tensions in Tibet, calling for greater moral commitment to respect for human rights.

Last night Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu later said Dr Rogge's view of a “crisis” might have been “exaggerated”—and then made it clear Beijing would not engage in a discussion over its human rights policies. “I believe IOC officials support the Beijing Olympics and adherence to the Olympic Charter of not bringing in any irrelevant political factors,” she said.

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