US President George W Bush said that his plans to attend the Beijing Olympics "haven't changed," but left unclear whether he would attend the opening ceremonies.
"I view this as an opportunity to support US athletes. And my plans haven't changed," Bush, who has never said whether he will be at the early August kick-off gala, told ABC television in an interview on his Texas ranch.
The US president has come under pressure from human rights groups, some of his Democratic critics, and even his Republican party's presumptive White House nominee, to skip the event in protest over China's human rights record, its crackdown in Tibet, and support for Sudan despite the crisis in Darfur.
"This isn't a new issue for me. Every time I meet with the Chinese president -- and I've met a lot with him -- I bring up religious freedom and human rights," Bush told ABC.
"So, the Dalai Lama is not all of a sudden, okay, 'the Olympics show up and George W Bush is for the first time concerned about the Dalai Lama.' I'm the only president who's ever stood up with the man publicly," he added.
Asked whether his presence at the Olympics sent a message to the world, Bush shot back: "Yeah. It says I'm supporting our athletes is what it says. And I don't view the Olympics as a political event. I view it as a sporting event."
"I have brought up religious freedom and Darfur and Burma and the Dalai Lama before the Olympics, during the Olympics and after the Olympics I bring it up," said the president.