Five arrested as Olympic torch arrives in Australia

Canberra, April 23:

Five people were arrested as the Olympic flame arrived in Australia today and officials said they were prepared for more protests on the latest leg of the troubled global torch relay.

The flame has become the focus of international demonstrations against China’s role in Tibet and the Olympic host’s human rights record, and has attracted angry protests in Europe and the US.

Even before a chartered airliner carrying the flame touched down at a military airfield in Canberra under tight security, protesters used the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a backdrop for their pro-Tibet message.

A man and a woman attempting to unfurl a banner and a Tibetan flag on the iconic landmark were arrested hours after lasers beamed pro-Tibet slogans including “Don’t torch Tibet” onto one of the structure’s pylons.

A police spokeswoman told AFP the two were detained by security officers and faced a fine for trying to attach their banner to the bridge without a permit.

Later, Sky News reported that three people were taken into custody after raising a pro-Tibet banner on a prominent billboard in the city’s King’s Cross nightlife district. Australian officials have shortened Thursday’s relay route through the capital Canberra over concerns about security at an event expected to attract thousands of pro-China supporters and pro-Tibet demonstrators.

Barriers have been erected along the 16-km route and more than half of the city’s police force will be on patrol.

Sarkozy sends De Gaulle’s biography:

PARIS: President Nicolas Sarkozy has sent a biography of French war hero Charles de Gaulle as a gift for his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, as part of a drive to ease tensions sparked by the Beijing Olympics. Former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who heads to China as Sarkozy’s envoy on Wednesday, told Le Parisien newspaper the president gave him a biography of the general along with a letter, to deliver to Hu later this week. — AFP