China postpones EU summit over Dalai Lama visit

China has indefinitely postponed a summit scheduled for next week with the European Union because of European leaders' plans to meet with the exiled leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, EU president France announced Wednesday. Among those who plan to meet with the Dalai Lama next week is President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. Because his country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, Sarkozy was also to host the EU-China summit in Lyon, southern France, on Monday that the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, was to have attended. That meeting is now postponed, at China's request, the French Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday. It said no date for a future summit has been set and that the EU regrets the Chinese decision. In a statement, it said Chinese authorities cited as a reason the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Europe and plans to meet EU heads of state and government. It did not name the EU leaders but a French official said the Chinese specifically cited Sarkozy's plans to meet with the Dalai Lama. The summit postponement marks a setback for France's efforts to work with China on solutions to the global financial crisis. It also comes in the wake of tensions between France and China earlier this year that erupted over the Olympic Games in Beijing. China was furious that the passage of the Olympic flame through Paris was marked by massive, vociferous and unruly protests against Chinese rule in Tibet and Chinese human rights policies. Sarkozy also suggested that he might boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing, but later reversed course. China is fiercely opposed to foreign governments hosting the Dalai Lama and bristles at foreign criticism of its rule over Tibet. Despite the Chinese summit postponement, French government spokesman Luc Chatel said Sarkozy will still meet Dec. 6 with the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, as planned. The Tibetan will be attending ceremonies to mark the 25th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Lech Walesa, the Polish founder of the Solidarity pro-democracy movement that helped bring down communism. There was no immediate comment from Beijing on the summit postponement. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang had said Tuesday that China "attaches great importance to its relations with the EU and France" but that its position on what he called "the Dalai issue" was "consistent and clear." "We firmly oppose the Dalai Lama's engagement of separatist activities overseas and we oppose foreign leaders' contact with the Dalai Lama in whatever form. We hope that relevant countries will earnestly honor their commitment of admitting Tibet as an inalienable part of China's territory," Qin said. "The Tibet issue is an internal affair. We should overcome all unnecessary disturbances and safeguard the overall interest of bilateral relations." John Fox, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Europe should defend Sarkozy's decision to meet with the Dalai Lama. "China's bullyboy tactics of trying to dictate who European leaders can and cannot meet are completely unacceptable," he said. He added that the summit "should have been used to forge a partnership for dealing with the financial crisis. European leaders therefore urgently need to show China that it cannot be divided and bullied and that the current Chinese actions damage both sides' interests." ____