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'Olympic torch to make stop in Tibet soon'

world Updated: Jun 16, 2008 09:05 IST

AP
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Organisers of the Olympic torch relay said on Monday that the flame would soon make a stop in Tibet, but they declined to give an exact date for that leg of the trip, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

The torch will now go to Tibet after going through China's western region of Xinjiang this week, later than scheduled, according to Li Lizhi of the Beijing Olympic torch relay center of the organizing committee for the games.

The torch was originally supposed to go through Tibet on June 18 or 19 before China's largely Muslim region of Xinjiang and Qinghai province.

But Li would not give the exact date for the torch's arrival in Tibet.

It was not clear why the change was made, but the route through Tibet has been kept secret. Foreign journalists are still forbidden from going to Tibet, where a violent uprising in ethnic Tibetan areas throughout China in March led to a security clampdown in the region.

The torch's stop in Tibet, originally set for three days, was cut to one earlier last month to make way for a switch in the visit to Sichuan province, the site of the May 12 earthquake. The torch relay was also stopped for three days after the earthquake to mark an official mourning period.

The route has been criticized by Tibet activist groups who see it as an attempt by Beijing to symbolize its control over Tibet. China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially independent for much of that time. So far the torch has had a smooth relay in mainland China, uninterrupted by the protests over Tibet and human rights that dogged parts of its international tour.

Last month Chinese mountaineers raised the Olympic torch at the summit of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, producing the triumphant image that China has longed for in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

The Everest torch was separate from the main Olympic flame, which is on a three-month tour of China after a one-month trip around the world.

Activists upset with Chinese government policies, especially pro-Tibet independence groups, used that trip around the world to stage protests to highlight their causes.