Kouchner backtracks on boycott call

French foreign minister now says a VIP boycott is 'unrealistic'.

    Hans-Gert Poettering believes a boycott
    should be considered [AFP]
    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is backtracking from comments suggesting he was open to a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony, saying the proposal is "unrealistic.''

    Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders came out in favour on Tuesday of an opening ceremony boycott by heads of state and government, as well as royalty.

    The president of the EU Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, also said politicians should consider staying away from the ceremony if violence continues in Tibet.

    Kouchner's original comments helped propel the idea.

    On Tuesday, Kouchner called it "interesting" and said he wanted to discuss it with other foreign ministers from the 27-nation European Union next week.

    He began backtracking that same evening, telling France-2 television: "We're not in favour of it."

    On Wednesday, Kouchner told RMC radio and BFM television, "It's not a bad idea.''

    But "it seems unrealistic,'' he said. "There are a lot of good ideas that can't be put into practice.''

    Violent protests in Tibet, the most serious challenge in almost two decades to China's rule in the region, are forcing human rights campaigners to re-examine their approach to the August 8-24 games.

    In Wednesday's radio interview, Kouchner, the former leader of aid group Doctors Without Borders, said he hoped the situation would ease.

    But he said human rights could not always be the main consideration in international relations.

    "Honestly it's very nice to talk about human rights, I've spoken about them all my life and I will continue to speak about them,'' he said.

    "But there are two sides to the coin.

    "When you're dealing in international relations with countries as important as China, obviously when you make economic decisions it's sometimes at the expense of human rights,'' he added.

    "That's elementary realism.''

    SOURCE: Agencies


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