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Envoy brief on Sarkozy-Dalai meet dismissed
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France continued to defend last week's meeting between President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama, saying it did not intend to offend China, but Beijing dismissed the argument because it is not enough to "resolve the crisis".

"China (has) said France should take full responsibility for the sour relations, but we can't agree with that," France's ambassador to China Herve Ladsous told reporters at the embassy Thursday.

Maintaining his tough stance, Ladsous said China has "over-reacted". He, however, hinted that his government might send special envoys or arrange high-level meetings with China to help break the impasse.

"France never intended to offend China, to hurt China's interests, or to disturb Sino-French or Sino-European relations," he said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had made similar remarks on Tuesday.

"We did not want to offend China, the Chinese people or the Chinese leaders," Kouchner told a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao dismissed the French argument, saying such remarks "cannot solve the current difficulties in Sino-French relations".

"By meeting with the Dalai Lama, Sarkozy has interfered with China's internal affairs and infringed upon China's core interests," Liu said at a regular press briefing.

He urged France to "be fully aware of the severity of the problem, seriously consider China's concerns and take concrete measures" to mend bilateral ties.

China's ambassador to France Kong Quan, too, has said Beijing would firmly safeguard its interests in core issues such as territorial integrity and sovereignty, although it valued its ties with France and Europe.

"China and France both have to be far-sighted and properly deal with their disputes," he said at a luncheon with representatives of French entrepreneurs in Paris on Wednesday.

Feng Zhongping, director of European studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told China Daily that France's explanation was aimed at making Sarkozy's mistake sound less serious.

"Till now I've not heard a convincing explanation from France. It has become a test for French diplomacy," Feng said.

In Beijing, Ladsous said his government is "positively considering it" when he was asked whether France is planning to send special envoys or arrange high-level meetings with China to break the impasse as it did in April after the Olympic torch relay was disrupted in Paris.

The Japanese media have reported that Sarkozy may use the next financial summit, scheduled for April in London, to meet Chinese leaders and mend relations.

But celebrations for the 45th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-French diplomatic ties will go ahead as planned on January 27, 2009, Ladsous said.

Asked how the incident would affect business ties, Ladsous said cooperation is necessary to tackle the global financial crisis and he is optimistic about it.

According to AFP, China has delayed the final phase of negotiations with Airbus for the purchase of 150 planes.

After Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama, China deferred the China-EU meeting. And Chinese experts said the postponement could have caused a loss of up to 10 billion euros to the European side because Premier Wen Jiabao had planned to lead a delegation of 150 enterprisers to buy goods from Europe.

Though French officials continue to defend Sarkozy, many French nationals have questioned his meeting with the Dalai Lama. Abdellah Ouahhabi, a senior French TV director and producer, wrote an open letter to Sarkozy on Sunday, saying he was astonished by his "irresponsible policy".

"Will Mr Sarkozy continue normal diplomatic and trade relations with a foreign government that keeps official contact with Corsican or Basque separatists?" he asked.

Ouahhabi said he hoped the Chinese understand that the French president's gesture is "not acceptable to all French people".

Protest against Poland

China Thursday protested against the meeting between Poland's president Lech Kaczynski and the Dalai Lama, warning that bilateral relations were at risk of being harmed.

"We have raised solemn representations with the Polish side and expressed our strong dissatisfaction," Liu Jianchao said.

(China Daily December 12, 2008)

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