Jowell rejects Beijing Olympics boycott

Jowell insists Britain committed to Beijing Games
Jowell insists Britain committed to Beijing Games

The Olympics minister has hit out at critics calling for a boycott of this summer's games in Beijing, insisting it would be counterproductive.

Tessa Jowell said the calls for a boycott were a "great pity" and stressed Britain remains committed to the Beijing Olympics.

A group of Nobel Prize winners and international athletes have written to the Chinese president urging him to use his influence in Sudan to help end the conflict in Darfur.

The letter argues China must do more to live up to the ideals of peace and international cooperation.

It follows director Steven Spielberg's decision to pull out as artistic adviser to the games in protest at China's record in Sudan.

But Ms Jowell argued a boycott "doesn't serve any purpose and it would be a great pity".

In an interview with the Times she said: "The world has known for the last seven years that Beijing would host the Olympics.

"Most progressive governments accept that there are wholly unacceptable aspects of Chinese policy but that did not stop the International Olympics Committee (IOC) awarding them the Games."

This, Ms Jowell added, does not mean "we should be distracted from the urgency of Darfur".

Earlier the Liberal Democrats praised Mr Spielberg's decision, arguing the director was right to criticise China's actions in Sudan.

Sudan sells two-thirds of its oil to Beijing, which in return sells arms to the Sudanese government.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: "That criticism should extend to any country or company that in any way supports the Sudanese government."

He added: "Gordon Brown's silence on human rights and Darfur during his recent Chinese trip stands in sharp contrast to his hand wringing over Darfur when back in Britain."


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