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Page last updated at 04:33 GMT, Monday, 7 April 2008 05:33 UK

Paris braced for torch protests

A Pro-Tibet activist is held by French police during a protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Paris (16 March 2008).
A Pro-Tibet activist is held by French police during a protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Paris (16 March 2008).

Hundreds of police are set to be deployed on the streets of Paris to protect the Olympic torch relay from opponents of China's actions in Tibet.

The 80 runners will be guarded on the 28km (18 mile) route by a cordon of 65 motorcycles, 200 police on rollerblades or running nearby, and 200 riot police.

Pro-Tibet activists have said they plan to hold demonstrations in the capital.

Thirty-seven arrests were made in London on Sunday as protesters tried to seize the torch and disrupt the relay.

At one point, the torch was transferred onto a bus to protect it from the demonstrators.

The torch was lit in Olympia, Greece, last week and will go through 20 countries before being carried into the Beijing Games opening ceremony on 8 August.

Security 'bubble'

The Olympic torch arrived at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport late on Sunday after being flown from London with a Chinese security detail.

It was welcomed on the tarmac by the Chinese ambassador to France, Kong Quan, and former French Olympic athlete Guy Drut.

The flame was then guarded by a convoy of 40 police motorcycles as it was transported to a hotel that has been surrounded by police.

Robert Menard (2 April 2008)
The Chinese have made sure that for a few hours, Paris will look like Tiananmen Square
Robert Menard
Reporters Without Borders

On Monday, police plan to secure a 200m (660ft) perimeter around the torch as it is carried from the Eiffel Tower, down the Champs-Elysees towards City Hall, then over the River Seine to the southern Charlety athletics stadium.

Police hope the elaborate security "bubble" will protect the relay from the persistent pro-Tibet protests which disrupted its passage through London. The Paris police chief has said the flame will be protected like a head of state.

The head of the Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, said it had altered its initial plans for similar demonstrations because of the expected heavy police presence, but nevertheless promised something "spectacular".

"The Chinese have made sure that for a few hours, Paris will look like Tiananmen Square," Robert Menard said. "I think it's shameful."

Mr Menard was arrested in Greece last month after disrupting the torch-lighting ceremony.

Pro-Tibet activists are also planning to hold a day of protests opposite the Eiffel Tower starting from 1000 (0800 GMT), although not directly on the relay route.

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, has also said he plans to unfurl a giant banner over city hall saying: "Paris defends human rights everywhere in the world".

Last month, President Nicolas Sarkozy also left open the possibility of boycotting the Olympic Games' opening ceremony in Beijing on 8 August.

Speaking in Beijing, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said he was "very concerned" by the protests and called for a "rapid, peaceful resolution in Tibet".

'Not the right time'

When the Olympic torch passed through London on Sunday, police repeatedly scuffled with pro-Tibet protesters, with one trying to snatch the torch and another to put it out with a fire extinguisher.

One man attempted to snatch the torch from UK TV presenter Konnie Huq
One man attempted to snatch the torch from UK TV presenter Konnie Huq

After an unpublicised change to the route, the Chinese ambassador carried the torch through Chinatown. It was later moved onto a bus when the police cordon was surrounded by a large group of protesters.

Several small scuffles broke out as police tackled some of the hundreds of protesters who gathered along the route.

A small contingent of Chinese supporters also tried to make their voices heard, waving Chinese and Olympic flags and calling for "one China".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown greeted the torch outside Number 10 despite coming under pressure to boycott the parade and the Beijing Olympics themselves.

Pictures of the London relay, but initially not the protests and disruption, were broadcast on Chinese state-controlled TV.

However state-owned Xinhua news agency later reported and played down the "vile misdeeds of the 'Tibet separatist' activists who tried to disrupt the torch relay".

OLYMPIC TORCH ROUTE
Olympic torch relay route
Torch lit in Olympia on 24 March and taken on five-day relay around Greece to Athens
After handover ceremony, it is taken to Beijing on 31 March to begin a journey of 136,800 km (85,000 miles) around the world
Torch arrives in Macao on 3 May. After three-month relay all around China, it arrives in Beijing for opening ceremony on 8 August





video and audio news
London: Man attempts to snatch the torch



SEE ALSO
Torch relay photos
06 Apr 08 |  Olympics
Jail for Chinese rights activist
03 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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