Vazquez: A boycott of Beijing Olympic would be 'serious error'

Updated: April 5, 2008, 4:08 PM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- The head of an organization that oversees 205 national Olympic committees said politicians who encourage a boycott or partial boycott of the Beijing Games are making "a serious error."

Mario Vazquez Rana, the president the Association of National Olympic Committees, and the International Olympic Committee are holding meetings over the next few days in China's capital.

"Any politician who is pushing for a boycott is committing a serious error," Vazquez said Saturday. "For me a total boycott, a partial boycott, is totally out of the question."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has not ruled out the possibility he might boycott the opening ceremony if China continues its crackdown in Tibet. In Saturday editions of Le Monde, one of his Cabinet ministers outlined changes needed for Sarkozy to take part in the Aug. 8 ceremony, but later denied using the word "conditions."

Le Monde had quoted Human Rights Minister Rama Yade as saying, "Three conditions are essential for him to attend: an end to violence against the population and the liberation of political prisoners; light shed on the events in Tibet; and the opening of a dialogue with the Dalai Lama."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France-2 television that Sarkozy's options were still open, and any decision would be based on how the situation evolves in Tibet. He added that France had set no conditions for Sarkozy's attendance at the ceremony.

Rioting last month in Tibet has thrown a spotlight on China's human rights record, prompting protests along the torch relay. It has turned the run-up to the Olympics into a stage for groups with grievances against China's communist government.

Vazquez took the same line offered Thursday by Hein Verbruggen, who heads a team of IOC inspectors that are making their last official visit to Beijing before the games. An IOC member, Verbruggen was critical of politicians who call for boycotts, saying the IOC is a sports organization -- not a political one.

"This (Tibet) is a Chinese problem and China will have to deploy all its ability and experience to solve its problem," Vazquez said. "Nobody should use the games as a way to solve this problem."

The Chinese government said 22 people died in violence stemming for the riots in Tibet. Tibet's government in exile said 140 died.

"I'm very sincerely sorry for what has happened in Tibet, but we must say that this is not an issue for the Olympic Games," Vazquez said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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