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Page last updated at 02:40 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 03:40 UK

Olympic flame lit at Everest peak

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The Olympic torch reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Chinese climbers bearing the Olympic flame have reached the summit of Everest, the world's highest mountain.

Chinese television showed the team of climbers, carrying special high-altitude torches, reaching the summit at 0920 local time (0120 GMT).

Huddled in the snow they unfurled flags and cheered for the cameras.

Correspondents say China is hoping the dramatic feat will counter some of the damaging publicity from the protests during the torch's international relay.

Perfect conditions

The team - made up of both Tibetans and Han Chinese - set off several hours before dawn from their camp at 8,300m.

Olympic climbers at top of Mount Everest

Low winds and a clear sky provided perfect climbing conditions for the six-hour ascent of the 8,848m (29,030 feet) high summit.

At the weekend heavy snowfall had prevented a previous attempt, and badly damaged several of the high-altitude camps.

The climbers, dressed in red padded anoraks bearing the Beijing Olympic logo, passed the flame between several torches as they traversed the icy slopes on the final steps to the summit.

Holding up Chinese and Olympic flags, they cheered "Beijing welcomes you!" and "One World, One Dream", the official slogan of the Beijing Olympics.

The first and last of the torch-bearers were Tibetan women.

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"We have lit this torch on the top of the world for harmony and peace," said one of the mountaineers.

Security was very tight for the event, with other climbers being banned from the top of Mount Everest, which is known in China as Mount Qomolangma.

Both China and Nepal sealed off their sides of the mountain and the ascent organisers kept the exact plans a secret because of fears it might draw protests from pro-Tibet activists.

Human rights activists have been angered by the crackdown on anti-Beijing protests in Tibetan areas of China in March that turned violent.

The main Olympic torch, which is running separately, is continuing its relay through China.

It was carried through the southern city of Guangzhou on Wednesday past cheering crowds with no reports of disruptions.

It is scheduled to visit every province in China before arriving in Beijing several days before the Olympics begin on 8 August.

The international leg of the torch's tour was marred by protests in several cities - including London, Paris and San Francisco - by activists critical of China's human rights record.



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