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  Thursday, February 20, 2020
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The Olympic torch has arrived at San Francisco international airport after
The Olympic torch has arrived at San Francisco international airport after its route through the city was disrupted by pro-Tibetan protestors calling for a boycott of this summer's Beijing Games.

Although the torch relay passed off without mass disturbances similar to those witnessed in Paris and London in the past week, the route was shortened and altered to avoid protestors, and security was tightened.

Flags protesting the awarding of the Games to Beijing were also hung on San Francisco Bridge and the planned closing ceremony by the river's edge was cancelled due to security concerns.

Reacting to developments, the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge described the current situation as "a crisis." However, speaking at an IOC executive board meeting in Beijing, he also added: "there is no scenario of either interrupting or bringing (the torch) back directly to Beijing."

In reference to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and boycotts in 1976, 1980 and 1984, Rogge said that: "This is a challenge but you cannot compare it to what we had in the past."

The protests came as calls grew for a boycott of the Games in protest over China's heavy-handed reaction to recent pro-independence disturbances in Tibet, Beijing's human rights record, and its arms deal with Sudan.

However, U.S. President George W. Bush stated in an interview with EWTN television, a Catholic network, that he would not change his plans to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on August 8. Many leading Democrats, including Hilary Clinton, have urged Bush to boycott the Olympics.

Bush said however that he did not need the Olympics to make his concerns over human rights and other issues heard, saying: "I've talked about freedom of religion every time I visited them. I've talked about Darfur. I've talked about Burma [Myanmar]. I've talked about the Dalai Lama. I don't need the Olympics to express my position."

The interview with Bush was recorded on Tuesday and is to be broadcast on Friday. The network made the transcript of the interview available on Wednesday.

Bush also urged China to "reach out" to Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

"If they ever were to reach out to the Dalai Lama, they'd find him to be a really fine man, a peaceful man, a man who is anti-violence, a man who is not for independence but for the cultural identity of the Tibetans," Bush said.

Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for recent violence in Tibet. Unrest began on March 10 when Buddhist monks in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, held a demonstration marking the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Exiled Tibetans say Chinese forces cracked down brutally on the demonstrations, killing around 140 people. Beijing says only 18 people were killed, many of them Han Chinese murdered by Tibetan separatists.

Communist Party Secretary Zhang Qingli recently branded the Dalai Lama "a wolf in monk's robes, a devil with a human face, but the heart of a beast." The Dalai Lama has denied allegations that he was behind the disturbances.

The Olympic torch is now due in Buenos Aires in the next leg of its troubled journey around the world.


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