IOC president Rogge 'very concerned' about Tibet

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The head of the International Olympic Committee said today that he was "very concerned" about unrest in Tibet, but played down talk of a boycott of the Beijing Games.

The extraordinary comments by IOC President Jacques Rogge illustrate how the largest anti-government protests in Tibet in two decades are continuing to rock the Olympic movement, four months ahead of the summer games.

People protesting China's policies on Tibet and other issues have repeatedly attempted to disrupt the Olympic torch relay, bringing new publicity to long-standing complaints about the communist regime's human rights record.

"I'm very concerned with the international situation and what's happening in Tibet," Rogge said at a meeting of the IOC and national Olympic committees in Beijing.

"The torch relay has been targeted. The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and calls for a rapid peaceful resolution in Tibet," Rogge said in a brief speech at the meetings' opening ceremony.

While Rogge made no direct reference to the protests, he denounced violence "for whatever reason," as "not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games."

Rogge acknowledged that "some politicians have played with the idea of boycotts," but added: "As I speak today, however, there is no momentum for a generalized boycott."

"We need the unity of the Olympic movement to help us overcome the difficulties. Our major responsibility is for offering good games to the athletes who deserve them," Rogge said. "The athletes deserve and the world expects it, and the unity of the Olympic movement will deliver it," he said.

China has faced rising criticism ahead of the August Olympics on issues ranging from Tibet to curbs on free speech and the government's close ties to the Sudanese regime accused of overseeing atrocities in Darfur.

Also today, a Beijing Olympics spokesman criticized protesters who tried to disrupt the torch relay in London, saying their actions were a "disgusting" form of sabotage by Tibetan separatists.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, said: "A few Tibetan separatists attempted to sabotage the torch relay in London, and we strongly denounce their disgusting behaviour."

Rogge's comments follow similar statements over the weekend by the head of an organization overseeing 205 national Olympic committees.