Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 15:45 UK

China vows to keep torch on track

Protesters hang Free Tibet banners hang from the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Seven protesters were arrested after the San Francisco action

Beijing has said "no force" can stop the Olympic flame relay, as it faces protests on the US leg of its journey.

Seven demonstrators have already been arrested in San Francisco after tying "Free Tibet" banners to the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The flame arrived in the city early on Tuesday amid heavy security, following anti-China protests in Europe.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) members will discuss the torch relay in meetings in Beijing in the coming days.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said he was "deeply saddened" by the protests in London and Paris and concerned about the next leg of the flame relay in San Francisco.

The IOC is unlikely to scrap the rest of the international leg of the Beijing torch relay, says the BBC's Olympics correspondent Gordon Farquhar.

What is most likely is that the Beijing international relay will continue, and a decision will be taken after the Games in China about the desirability of holding international relays before future Games, our correspondent adds.

Disrupted route

The flame was lit in Olympia, Greece, on 24 March and is being relayed by torch through 20 countries before being carried into the opening ceremony at the Beijing Games on 8 August.

Using the torch this way is almost a crime. This is the property of the IOC, it is not a Chinese torch
Swedish IOC member Gunilla Lindberg

But the torch had to be put out three times in Paris because of the protests.

The flame itself was kept alight in a safety lantern.

Demonstrators are protesting at China's security crackdown in Tibet after recent unrest against Chinese rule.

Tibetan exile groups say Chinese security forces killed dozens of protesters. Beijing says about 19 people were killed in rioting.

Chinese state TV said the protesters in London and Paris were a "handful of Tibetan separatists".

These protesters are doing the wrong thing, using the wrong method, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, to send the wrong message
Beijiner, Shanghai

Condemning the disruption to the relay, Beijing Olympic organising committee spokesman Sun Weide told reporters the torch relay would continue as planned.

"No force can stop the torch relay of the Beijing Games," he said in Beijing.

But the International Olympic Commitee, currently holding a meeting in the Chinese capital, is to discuss whether torch relays should continue for future Games.

IOC press commission chief Kevan Gospar said that this year's 137,000km torch relay will continue as planned, "but certainly, the IOC executive board should review the torch relay programme for the future".

Protest climb

Swedish IOC member Gunilla Lindberg said the protests were "damaging the Olympic movement".

"Using the torch this way is almost a crime. This is the property of the IOC, it is not a Chinese torch."

Map of San Francisco torch route
Scheduled route - subject to change

Police in San Francisco, where the torch is due to be relayed on Wednesday, arrested seven people on Monday and charged them with conspiracy and causing a public nuisance.

Three climbers among them faced additional charges of trespassing.

They had scaled the bridge to perch 150 feet (46m) above traffic, attaching "Free Tibet" banners and a Tibetan flag.

One of them, Laurel Sutherlin, spoke by mobile phone to reporters.

"If the IOC [International Olympic Committee] allows the torch to proceed into Tibet they'll have blood on their hands," he said.

US Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called on President George W Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics unless China improves its human rights record.

Black banners

The Paris relay started to go wrong almost from the start, despite the presence of 3,000 police along the route.

Pro-Tibet demonstrators in Paris 7/4/08

It was cut short with the torch finally carried by bus to the relay's end point.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe cancelled a ceremony to welcome the torch relay after Green party activists hung a Tibetan flag and a black banner depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs from the city hall.

Activists also hung Tibetan flags or black banners from several other Paris landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral.

On Sunday, 37 people were arrested in London as protesters disrupted the torch relay there.

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

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