French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday the world should not turn its back on China but instead stay by its side on the road to progress, as he prepared to attend the opening of the Beijing Olympics.
Speaking to French athletes just hours before the Games begin, Sarkozy rejected calls to have boycotted China and the Olympics because of the country's record on human rights.
"You don't boycott one-fourth of humanity," the French leader said, just before meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
"We must accompany China towards openness, tolerance and progress -- towards respect for our values," he said, calling the awarding of the Games to Beijing "an intelligent decision."
Sarkozy also said the main reason for his trip to Beijing was to support the French athletes competing in the Games, the first Olympics ever held in China.
"The main reason for me being here, it's first of all to support the French team," he said.
But he said that his presence was also a show of support for the Olympics and what he called the "universal ideal of sport" that the Games represent.
"Sport remains a universal value in the service of peace," the president said.