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Could the Tibetan protests derail China's plans for a smooth run-up to the Beijing Olympics?

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He said the gang hatched the plot in November and travelled through Xinjiang last month seeking recruits, including those skilled in weapons and explosives production.

Members of the Xinjiang region's Muslim Uighur ethnic group have been pressing for an independent state, while Beijing has sought to portray the separatists as being linked to global terrorists networks.

However, many experts and analysts have said that there is little evidence to support this and membership of the separatist groups is believed to be small. 

Wu said that another cell, allegedly uncovered in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi in January was planning poison and bomb attacks before the games.

Security heightened

China heightened security following unrest in Tibet, as well as nearby regions with Tibetan populations, and reports of at least one pro-independence demonstration in Xinjiang.

The situation in Tibet has also prompted protests which have disrupted the Olympic torch relay in Athens, London, Paris and San Francisco.

Officials overseeing the torch route in San Francisco on Wednesday cancelled the planned closing ceremony on the city's waterfront.

However, the head of the International Olympic Committee, said that the route would not be altered or shortened.

"This scenario [to change the route] is definitely not on the agenda," Jacques Rogge said at a news conference in Beijing.
 
"We are studying together with [organisers] to improve the torch relay, but there is no scenario of either interrupting or bringing [the torch] back directly to Beijing."

Boycott urged

Meanwhile, the European Parliament urged leaders of the 27 nations in the bloc to boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing if China did not begin talsk with the Dalai Lama.

Olympic torch relay


Modern tradition of torch relay began in 1936 at Berlin Olympics

 

This year's is the longest ever, travelling 137,000km

 

The torch will visit 19 nations over 130 days

 

First destination is Kazakhstan

 

On the final leg, it will travel throughout China, including Tibet and the summit of Mount Everest

 

Click here to go to the official torch relay site
(Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites)

The parliament approved a resolution calling on the governments to explore "the option of non-attendance in the event there is no resumption of dialogue".

The British prime minister's office said on Wednesday that Gordon Brown would skip the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

 

Brown is the third major world leader after Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, to announce they are not attending the ceremony. 

However, his office said he was not boycotting the Olympics and would go to the closing ceremony.

 

The US has not ruled out a boycott of the Beijing Games but George Bush, the country's president, has said that he will attend the opening ceremony.

Last week Democrats in the US congress led by Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, urged Bush to consider a boycott to protest against China's crackdown on demonstrators in Tibet.
 
The Dalai Lama has said that China has the right to host the Olympics, which are due to go ahead on August 8.
 
"I support the Chinese host for the world game because China is the most populous nation, ancient nation," he said.

Source: Agencies