Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

China condemns France over Tibet

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama, now a Nobel peace laureate, fled Tibet in 1959

China says it had "no choice but to postpone" a summit with the EU because of the French stance on the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.

China's foreign ministry said French President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to meet the Dalai Lama had "deprived the summit of a good atmosphere".

Mr Sarkozy has said he will meet the Dalai Lama in Poland on 6 December.

France - holder of the EU's rotating presidency - was to have hosted the EU-China summit on 1 December.

In China we have a saying, 'Whoever causes the problem should solve the problem'
Qin Gang
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman

"To maintain good relations with France and the European Union, China has told France time and again to properly handle the Tibet issue, so as to create necessary conditions for the China-EU summit," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

"Regrettably, the French side has not actively responded to [these] efforts, so that the summit cannot be held in a good atmosphere, nor achieve its expected goals."

Mr Qin added: "In China we have a saying, 'Whoever causes the problem should solve the problem'. It is not China that caused the present situation."

Beijing has previously said Mr Sarkozy risks losing "hard-won" gains in ties with Beijing if he meets the Dalai Lama.

On Wednesday, an EU statement said "the European Union, which set ambitious aims for the 11th EU-China summit, takes note and regrets this decision by China [to postpone it]".

It added that the EU planned to continue to "promote the strategic partnership it has with China".

Territorial dispute

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, after Chinese troops had crushed an uprising by pro-independence Tibetans.

Beijing says Tibet has been part of the Chinese nation since the 13th Century.

Many Tibetans disagree, pointing out that the Himalayan region was an independent kingdom for many centuries, and that Chinese rule over Tibet has not been constant.

Mr Sarkozy has said he plans to meet the Dalai Lama in the city of Gdansk on 6 December, where Poland will mark the 25th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Lech Walesa, who led the anti-communist Solidarity union in the 1980s.

A French diplomat has confirmed that Mr Sarkozy still intends to meet the Dalai Lama in Poland next week, the BBC's Oana Lungescu reports from Brussels.

During a trip to France this summer, the Dalai Lama met Mr Sarkozy's wife Carla Bruni and the foreign minister Bernard Kouchner.

Earlier this year the EU voiced serious concern about a crackdown by Chinese authorities on Tibetan protesters.

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