Page last updated at 07:17 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 08:17 UK

Japan temple rejects torch relay

A Chinese guardian holds the Olympic flame during a relay leg (file image)
Several legs of the relay have been disrupted by human rights protests

A major Buddhist temple has withdrawn from plans to host Japan's opening stage of the Olympic torch relay.

Zenkoji Temple, in the city of Nagano, had been due to serve as the starting point for the parade on 26 April.

An official said the monks were worried about safety but also linked the decision to concern over recent unrest in Tibet.

Meanwhile the torch has arrived in Thailand in preparation for a parade through the capital city, Bangkok.

The relay has been dogged by protests over Tibet, with chaotic scenes in London, Paris and San Francisco.

Security row

In Japan, the torch is to be paraded 18.5km (11.5 miles) through Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

The decision by the temple to withdraw was announced after talks with city officials.

"We needed to think about security, being a temple with national treasures and many visitors," a temple official told Reuters news agency.

"We also had to take into account the many messages of concern that we, as a Buddhist temple, received from residents all over the country and from our followers after growing international focus on the Tibet issue."

Kunihiko Shinohara, of Nagano's organising committee for the relay, said that the starting point for the parade would be changed.

"We respect the temple's decision," he said.

The city has already cancelled one event planned around the relay because of security concerns.

There is also a row brewing with China about whether or not its security officials will be allowed to run alongside, reports the BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo.

Japan says its own security measures will be sufficient, but China has asked Japan to accept that its people should be in place to deter any demonstrators.

On Thursday, the Indian leg of the relay, in the capital, Delhi, took place under tight security. At least 100 pro-Tibet activists were arrested.

Torch lit in Olympia on 24 March and taken on five-day relay around Greece to Athens
After handover ceremony, taken to Beijing on 31 March to begin a journey of 136,800 km (85,000 miles) around the world

Torch arrives in Macau on 3 May. After three-month relay all around China, it arrives in Beijing for opening ceremony on 8 August

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