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Hubert Vialatte, Associated Press

The Dalai Lama wrapped up a high-profile visit to France that coincided with the Beijing Olympics by meeting behind closed doors with the French foreign minister after a religious ceremony Friday attended by the first lady.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, however, was conspicuously absent from both events. He and the exiled Tibetan leader may meet later this year – but avoided what would have been a politically sensitive meeting during the Olympic Games. Friday’s ceremony was among the Dalai Lama’s sole meetings with French authorities during his 11-day trip to France. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Human Rights Minister Rama Yade attended the religious ceremony, the inauguration of a Buddhist temple in the south of France.

Kouchner was the highest-ranking French official to meet with the Dalai Lama. “I told him he would always be welcome in France,” Kouchner told reporters after their talks.

Mathieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk of French origin who served as a translator during the trip, told reporters the “serious situation” in Tibet topped the Dalai Lama’s meeting with Kouchner.

“Coinciding with the Olympic Games, there’s a certain kind of extremely brutal repression that continues to reign,” Ricard said. The Dalai Lama wound a traditional white Tibetan scarf around the neck of first lady and former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. She, Yade and Kouchner wore the long, silk scarves during the ceremony blessing the temple in the town of Roqueredonde.

Although his visit to France centered mostly around spiritual matters, the Dalai Lama ratcheted up his criticism of the Chinese, accusing Chinese troops of firing at a crowd of Tibetans in China this week and saying people may have been killed during the incident. In an interview with Le Monde daily released Thursday, the Tibetan spiritual leader accused China of imposing a new, long-term “plan of brutal repression” and building new military camps in Tibetan areas. He also expressed disappointment that talks this year between his representatives and Chinese authorities about Tibet ran aground without breakthroughs.

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Paris, May 10 – Two months after the revolt in Tibet, hundreds of Tibetans, French Tibet supporters, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Burmese and others marched today in the streets of Paris in solidarity with Tibet. Tibetan Community of France and others called for a national day of protest here in France.

Thupten Gyatso, the president of Tibetan Community in France said that “since March 10, the Chinese government has continued a policy of military repression against Tibetan civilians with impunity. Today hundreds of Tibetans have been killed and several thousands of Tibetans are languishing in prison for expressing their political opinion.” He called on the Chinese authorities to release all the prisoners immediately.

Tibetan dressed as monks for dramatisation of situation in Tibet. (photo: Tenam)

He also called for free access to media in Tibet, immediate cessation of repression in Tibet and direct negotiation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Hu Jintao on the future of Tibet.

A signature campaign asking French president Nicholas Sarkozy to meet with His Holiness was also signed by many people.

Tibetans and Tibet supporters are asking for the cancellation of the Tibet leg of the Beijing Olympics torch.

Mayors of hundreds of towns across France have decided to raise the Tibetan national flag in support of Tibet.

Tibetan community will be organising a national protest once every month and two-day vigil in Paris every weekend.

Click Image for Larger View:

^ An image taken by a British photographer that surfaced in France.

Interesting to say the least, n’est-ce pas?

Officials interrupted the Olympic torch relay amid protests in Paris on Monday, extinguishing the flame, putting it aboard a bus.

About 80 athletes were to jog it through the heart of the French capital, starting with a colorful ceremony at the Eiffel tower amid massive security.

There were some problems during the torch relay in London on Sunday from protesters angry over China’s human rights record.

One protester managed to evade a phalanx of police and security guards to almost snatch the torch out of a runner’s hands. Another tried to douse it with a fire extinguisher.

In Paris, the runner and the torch were being surrounded by a veritable moving fortress of police vehicles, motorcycles and hundreds of officers, some of them on roller skates.

Even before the relay began, French police sealed off the area around the Eiffel Tower and ordered protesters to put away their Tibetan flags.

The Olympic torch was expected to arrive in the United States this week as it hop-scotched around the world in the runup to the Summer Games in China.

It was expected to be in San Francisco on Wednesday, one of 21 stops on six continents and the only one in North America.