03/29/2008, 00.00
TIBET - CHINA - NEPAL
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An armed escort for the Olympic torch, symbol of peace and fraternity

In Nepal, the army will watch over pro-Tibet protests. Hundreds of demonstrators are already in jail in the country. The Dalai Lama asks for a "constructive dialogue", and denounces the genocide taking place. Meanwhile, the European Union has not decided to take any action against the repression, and Western diplomats are letting themselves be "led around" in Lhasa, under careful supervision.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Nepalese army will monitor the journey of the Olympic torch to Everest, "so that no anti-China protest takes place".  Meanwhile, Western governments confirm their intention to take no initiatives over the Tibetan question, and are allowing themselves to be "led around" by Beijing.

No one will be allowed to be present during the passage of the torch (between June 19 and 20), which will ascend to the 8,850-metre peak at the border between Nepal and China.  Meanwhile, yesterday about 60 demonstrators were arrested, while a group of students of 15-18 years old evaded the police and reached the United Nations building in Kathmandu, shouting: "Free Tibet". Nepal is taking very strong action against the thousands of Tibetan exiles who live in the country: hundreds of peaceful demonstrators are in jail, and the police have seized monks and violently beaten them.  The UN high commissioner for human rights has denounced the arrest of people simply walking on the streets, solely because they are clearly of Tibetan ethnicity.

This "firmness" is contrasted by the indecisiveness of the European Union, whose foreign ministers, meeting in Slovenia until today to discuss Tibet, have agreed only on a generic condemnation of the repression, and of the death of 19 people (Beijing's version: the Tibetan government-in-exile speaks of more than 140 verified deaths).  Many countries, like Great Britain, have declared that they will be in Beijing for the inauguration of the Games.  Others, like Germany, have said that they will not be there, while taking care to specify that this is for reasons unrelated to the Tibetan question.  French president Nicholas Sarkozy, who was the first to speak about avoiding the ceremony, has said that none of the 27 countries has proposed a similar unified protest, and that he "[reserves] the right" to decide what to do.

Yesterday, the Dalai Lama again appealed to Beijing to open a "constructive dialogue" for a "peaceful solution" of the crisis, insisting that he does not want to boycott the Olympics nor to ask for independence for Tibet, but only for "a full guarantee from the Chinese government on our unique cultural heritage, including our language and environment".  He denounced "a plan to settle one million Chinese people in Tibet". In reality, he concluded, "a cultural genocide is taking place".

But meanwhile, the West prefers to let itself be "led around" by China: Today diplomats to China from 17 countries, including the United States, Australia, and Great Britain, took a day trip to Lhasa, to verify that the situation is peaceful.  They made the trip under careful supervision, for reasons of "safety".  The area is still off-limits to tourists and journalists.

Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the U.S. state department, applauded the initiative as "a step in the right direction". (PB)

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