The EU's Slovenian presidency said that it would not invite the Dalai Lama to Brussels to meet with the bloc's foreign ministers, as Paris has proposed, but would not rule out other contacts with the Tibetan leader.
The EU is concerned about Tibet, but will not invite the Dalai Lama to Brussels
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told a special Chinese envoy in Ljubljana that "the Slovenian presidency did not intend to invite the Dalai Lama to the council meeting (of EU foreign ministers) in Brussels," the presidency said in a statement on Saturday, April 19.
The Slovenian presidency, however, added that "contacts with him him [the Dalai Lama] on other levels were not excluded."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on April 1 that the 27 EU foreign ministers would invite the Dalai Lama once a decision had been made by the Slovenian EU presidency.
At the time, Rupel said that inviting the Dalai Lama to Brussels was "doable" but would need to be discussed by foreign ministers from the other EU nations.
Beijing 's opposition
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel spoke to a Chinese envoy in Ljubljana
China has opposed foreign nations providing support to what it has said was the Dalai Lama's attempts to split Tibet from China, in reaction to reports that he may go to Japan and Europe.
On Friday, Rupel received special Chinese envoy Guan Chengyuan, who had a letter laying out Beijing's position on developments in Tibet and EU nations' reaction to them.
In response, Rupel said that "substantive and open dialog with the Dalai Lama could form part of the solution" to the problem, according to the statement.
"Slovenia and the EU understand the urgency of restoring stability in China, but at the same time believe that the Chinese authorities could take more positive steps to address the situation in Tibet," the EU presidency said.
Protests in China
Meanwhile, protests were held on Saturday in at least five Chinese cities against independence for Tibet, official media reported.
Demonstrators protested in front of the Carrefour supermaket in Wuhan, China
Demonstrators gathered outside branches of French retailer Carrefour amid claims that it had links to exiled Tibetans and in the wake of widespread calls for a boycott of French goods. Carrefour has vehemently rejected the claims.
A small group of young people protested outside the French embassy in Beijing's Sanlitun district Saturday and a nearby French school. Large numbers of police had earlier sealed off streets in the district.
Protests were held in Beijing, Hefei and in Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei, in Qingdao in Shandong province and in Kunming in the south-west province of Yunnan, Xinhua news agency reported.
Anti-French sentiment in China has been on the rise since the chaotic Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay, where pro-Tibet protesters tried to wrestle the flame from Jin Jing, a young wheelchair-bound fencer.
The resentment has been amplified by French President Nicolas Sarkozy linking his appearance at the Olympic Games opening ceremony to progress on human rights in Tibet, following China's crackdown in the region.
Activists all over the world have protested against the Chinese crackdown in Tibet
Last month, Tibet saw the biggest anti-Chinese protests in years on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising that sent the Dalai Lama fleeing into exile in India.
Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 150 people have died in the crackdown. China says Tibetan "rioters" have killed 18 civilians and two policemen.
Rupel said that the EU was "concerned" about the lack of information about the events and reports from international non-governmental organizations of harsh measures by the authorities and that many people remained unaccounted for.
"The EU is concerned upon receiving such information," Rupel said. "A positive step would be to allow free access to Tibet and to enable full transparency."