Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Chinese PM's trip 'snubs France'

Nicolas Sarkozy, left, meets the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, 6 December 2008
Mr Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama early in December

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to travel to Europe next week, the foreign ministry has announced - but his trip will pointedly exclude France.

Mr Wen will visit Germany, Spain and Britain, as well as the EU in Brussels and the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Correspondents say Beijing continues to snub Paris because of a meeting between President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama late last year.

China reacted at the time by cancelling a scheduled summit with the EU.

'Mutual understanding'

Mr Wen's visit is being seen by analysts as a sign it is ready to mend relations with European leaders following the heated row last year over China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters.

"We hope that the visit will further enhance mutual understanding and trust," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

"Setbacks that have happened in the past are not what we want to see," she said.

This attempt at a rapprochement does not appear to include France.

Ms Jiang gave no reason as to why Mr Wen's visit did not include meeting the French, but correspondents say officials in Beijing are still angry at Mr Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese foreign ministry recently warned that the future of China's ties with France depended on whether Paris was prepared to "correct its wrongdoing" over Tibet.

China accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader of trying to seek Tibetan independence from Chinese rule, and opposes any foreign leader meeting the Dalai Lama.

But Beijing was particularly incensed by Mr Sarkozy's decision, because at the time France held the rotating presidency of the EU.

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