France says will attend China dissident's Nobel ceremony

9th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

France will attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo despite pressure from Beijing for western countries to boycott it, its government said on Tuesday.

"Every year at this prize-giving France is always represented by its ambassador to Norway. This tradition will be upheld this year," French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters.

"We have been in touch with our European colleagues and we understand from this that that is the choice they intend to make."

The ceremony takes place on December 10 in Oslo, home of the Norwegian Nobel Committee which awards the peace prize.

China was enraged by the committee's decision to award the prize to Liu, a writer and rights activist who is serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for subversion for publishing a pro-democracy charter.

Diplomats from several countries said China's embassy in Oslo had sent letters to western missions implicitly cautioning them not to attend the prize ceremony.

All foreign ambassadors in Oslo are traditionally invited to the peace prize ceremony by the committee, which is independent from the Norwegian state.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy avoided talking publicly about Liu when he hosted Chinese President Hu Jintao last week for a state visit that yielded billions of euros (dollars) in trade and strengthened diplomatic ties.

Rights groups and political opponents criticised Sarkozy for not speaking out in support of Liu. Sarkozy told reporters he had raised the issue of human rights during their talks but gave no details.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner however told RTL he had talked about Liu with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai warned on Friday that governments would have to "take responsibility for the consequences" if they backed Liu.

More than a dozen European countries including Britain and Germany have said their ambassadors or other senior diplomats will attend the event.

© 2010 AFP

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