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France seeks to repair China ties
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French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Thursday that his country hopes to deepen ties with China, which have been strained over French President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"We need China, the world needs China to get out of the recession " Fillon told parliament.  

Relations between the two countries hit a low after Sarkozy refused to call off a meeting with the Dalai Lama in December.

Beijing then pulled out of a summit with the European Union (EU) that was supposed to have taken place on Dec 1 in France, which held the rotating EU presidency at the time.

Fillon stressed that Tibet is an integral part of China, but insisted that the French president had every right to meet the Dalai Lama.

"For us, this incident does nothing to distract from our desire to reinforce our strategic partnership with China."

Former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is scheduled to visit China next week following earlier attempts to improve relations.

China, which has said it is up to France to repair ties with Beijing, agreed with the EU last week to hold a summit soon, after the London G20 summit on April 2.

France was excluded from Premier Wen Jiabao's recent European visit.

"We all know why," Wen said when asked why he had omitted France from his itinerary, China News Service reported.

"I looked at a map of Europe on the plane. My trip goes around France," Wen said.

The "reason (for not visiting) doesn't lie with China", he told a group of reporters. He urged Paris to "mend and improve ties" with China.

Wen's tour, which began on Jan 27 and ended Monday, took him to Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom.

(China Daily February 7, 2009)

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