'Don't rule out Olympics boycott'

European countries should not rule out threatening China with an Olympic boycott if violence continues in Tibet, the president of the European Parliament has been reported as saying.

"Beijing must decide itself, it should immediately negotiate with the Dalai Lama," Hans-Gert Poettering was quoted as saying by Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"If there continue to be no signals of compromise, I see boycott measures as justified."

Poettering's comments came after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner last week backtracked from his own remarks that suggested he was open to a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony, saying the proposal was "unrealistic."

But Poettering told Bild that "we should not rule out a boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing".

The European Union on Thursday said a boycott would be counterproductive to efforts to improve human rights in China. "A boycott could signify actually losing an opportunity to promote human rights and could, at the same time, cause considerable harm to the population of China as a whole," said a statement from Slovenia, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Poettering said the European Parliament would be talking over the issue midweek, and said he was pushing for European countries to "speak with one voice on the defence of human rights in Tibet".

"China, for Europe, is an important partner - in climate protection, for example," Poettering told Bild. "Dialogue and co-operation are in the interests of both sides, but the Tibetan people should not be allowed to be made victims for it."

In other comments to Bild, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier did not rule out a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the games by Western politicians.

"Only Beijing can decide this question," he was quoted as saying.

Copyright © 2008 The Press Association

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