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Bush expresses concern about Tibet to Chinese

/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush called China's President Hu Jintao on Wednesday and raised concerns about the crackdown in Tibet, joining a growing chorus of international protests about Beijing's tough tactics.

Bush also told Hu that a "mistake had been made" in the shipment of nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan, the president's national security adviser said.

The White House said that Bush encouraged Hu to engage in "substantive dialogue" with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. The president also called on China to allow access for journalists and diplomats in Tibet.

China's crackdown in Tibet is in response to the most sustained uprising against Chinese rule in almost two decades — a challenge that has put China's human rights record in the international spotlight, embarrassing and frustrating a Communist leadership that had hoped for a smooth run-up to the Olympic Games.

The White House has said that Bush would not boycott the Beijing Olympics because of the crackdown, arguing that the games are an event that are supposed to be about the athletes, not politics.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested he might boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Sarkozy, visiting the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday, said France and Britain should struggle together for human rights and religious and cultural identity. Sarkozy called for dialogue between China's government and the Dalai Lama.

Foreign journalists allowed in
China on Wednesday showed some signs of relenting, allowing the first group of foreign journalists to visit the regional capital since the violence began. The reporters were taken to Potala Square, below the Potala Palace, the traditional seat of Tibetan rulers, which reopened Wednesday for the first time since March 14. Then reporters were taken a few blocks away where many shops had been burned out during the rioting.

Bush's conversation with Hu also covered Taiwan, North Korea and Mynanmar.

Bush said the election in Taiwan of Ma Ying-jeou, who has promised to defuse tensions and expand trade with China, would provide "a fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and engage one another in peacefully resolving their differences."

On the issues of the missile fuses, the president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the matter came up briefly on Wednesday. Hadley described the phone call by saying, "Basically, the president indicated that a mistake had been made."

The U.S. military's mistaken delivery to Taiwan of electrical fuses for an intercontinental ballistic missile has raised concerns over U.S.-China relations. It has also triggered a broad investigation into the security of Pentagon weapons.

China on Wednesday strongly protested the mistaken delivery.

Bush and Hu pledged to work together with other partners to press North Korea to make a complete and accurate declaration of all of its nuclear weapons programs and to complete a promised disarmament, the White House said.

Earlier Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the United States and South Korea said Wednesday that patience is running out over North Korea's failure to hand over a promised declaration of nuclear weapon efforts. Pyongyang was to provide a list that was due at the end of last year. The late declaration has bogged down six-nation disarmament talks.