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Paris mayor made 'political mistake'
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Making the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen of Paris is a "very serious political mistake" by the city's mayor, former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said on the eve of his China trip.

The Paris city council, led by Mayor Bertrand Delanoe's Socialists and the Green Party, approved a resolution on Monday to bestow honorary citizenship to the Dalai Lama.

The French government has distanced itself from the capital's move. President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservatives opposed the measure.

"The action by Delanoe is a very serious political mistake. Firstly, as a responsible local official, he must maintain consensus with the state's diplomatic strategy when making comments on some international issues," Raffarin said in an interview with China Youth Daily in Paris on Tuesday.

"I feel very ashamed the Paris city council went against President Sarkozy's efforts to improve Sino-French ties," Raffarin was quoted as saying.

The reason for the council's move is that Delanoe is trying to win more votes from the Socialists as he bids to become the Party leader, he said.

"If the Paris city council wants to honor someone they consider to be a hero, they must

first analyze the candidate objectively and comprehensively, and not act on impulse."

Raffarin's Beijing visit, which starts today, is designed to soothe the anti-France sentiment in China sparked by the disruption of the Olympic torch relay leg in Paris earlier this month.

Raffarin said he believed there to be no strategic differences or confrontations between the two sides and said France wishes China every success for the Beijing Games.

The recent incident was just an "emotional clash" between the two countries, he said, suggesting dialogue between Paris and Beijing is preferable to the calls by some Chinese to boycott French goods.

"I fully understand these Chinese people, particularly the emotions of the young. But a boycott means a break up and a denial of normal diplomacy and dialogue," he said.

Raffarin is expected to meet Premier Wen Jiabao today, and forward two letters written by Sarkozy and his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, to President Hu Jintao.

Also on Tuesday, Kong Quan, the Chinese ambassador to France, said he could not understand why the Dalai Lama had been made an honorary citizen of Paris.

"Despite the Dalai's identity as a leader of Tibetan Buddhism, he is also the head of Tibetan separation and the general representative of feudal serfdom," he said.

"Paris' decision to bestow this honor on such a person is not understandable because France abolished feudalism more than 220 years ago."

The Chinese government is open to talks with the Dalai Lama, but it was his group that broke the basic terms for dialogue by adopting violence, he said. Kong was speaking after a meeting with Sarkozy at which the French president said France is "forever friendly" toward China.

(China Daily April 24, 2008)

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