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Olympic torch relay in Paris concludes

PARIS, April 7 (Xinhua) -- The Olympic torch relay concluded in Paris Monday afternoon, after repeated disruptions by Tibetan separatists and their supporters which aroused indignation from spectators and sports officials.

    The torch was forced to be put on an accompanying bus for four times in the afternoon as precautions against the protestors, a Xinhua photographer reported. The journey was cut short and brought to the final place by bus.

    Earlier, a protestor tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the Olympic torch, but was stopped by police, and another one failed in his attempt to snatch the torch from a torchbearer.

    At least five protesters were detained for blocking the Beijing Olympic torch relay in the French capital, the AFP news agency reported.

    Henri Serandour, head of the French Olympic Committee on Monday criticized the protests as "highly regrettable."

    "I think that people should have let this flame through, that they could have held their protests to one side," he said.

    "Everyone has a right to express themselves but to stop it passing shows a lack of respect for the basic freedom of our athletes to carry this flame, which is a message of peace to the whole world," the chief said.

    Another member of the French Olympic Committee said here Monday that the Olympic torch relay should not be affected in any way.

    "The Olympic sacred fire is a symbol of peace, tolerance... and should not be affected by anybody in any way," Guy Drut told France 3 television.

    Spectators of the Beijing Olympic torch relay were greatly annoyed and angered by Tibetan separatists and their supporters attempting to disrupt the Monday event in Paris, the fifth leg of the flame's global tour.

    "We've come here only to watch the torch relay," said a Paris student, who gave his first name as Mark.

    "What in the world does this have anything to do with us except for annoying us?" he added, pointing to Tibetan separatist demonstrators.

Liu Zijun, a Chinese student studying in Paris told Xinhua that the Beijing Olympic Games is a big event for China, she and her friends were very angry about the protests around the relay of the sacred fire.

    "A majority of the French people are friendly towards China, but they have no knowledge about what really happened in Tibet and have been misled by some western media's distorted reports," Liu said, adding those media have played a "very bad role" in the matter.

    Tens of thousands spectators went to the street of Paris to watch the torch relay, which covers 28 kilometers starting the Eiffel Tower and ending at the Stade (Stadium) Charlety in the south of the city.

    Many on-lookers waved Chinese flags to cheer the event or put flag stickers on the face.

    One of them told Xinhua that some of the flags were hand-made by themselves or posted by their friends in China.

    Spokesman of the torch relay center of the Beijing Olympic Organization Committee Qu Yingpu said that the torch relay started in Paris smoothly, but has encountered protests during the process. Due to technical and safety reasons, the relay team had to change the ways of torch bearing four times during the process and put the torch onto the bus before the relay was resumed towards the south of Paris.

    On Sunday, he said that as the highest symbol of the Olympic spirit, the Olympic flame represents peace, friendship and progress. Under the authorization of the International Olympic Committee, the Beijing Olympic torch relay is taking its journey of harmony throughout the world, sharing the passion and glory of the Olympics with the world, and has received warm welcome from the people en route.

    However, a few "pro-Tibet independence" activists have attempted to interrupt the torch relay during its journey in grave violation of the Olympic spirit, as the Olympic flame belongs to the world. The act will surely arouse resentment of the peace-loving people, and is bound to fail, he said.

    The Beijing Olympic torch relay takes place on Monday in Paris, the fifth leg of its global tour.

    The 2008 Olympic flame was ignited on March 24 in Ancient Olympia of Greece and was handed over to Beijing on March 31 after a six-day relay in Greece.

    The 130-day torch relay will cover 137,000 km before the flame returns to Beijing and enters the National Stadium on Aug. 8 for the Olympics' opening ceremony.

    A total of 21,880 torch bearers will be participating in the unprecedented relay, which is held under the theme of "Journey of Harmony."

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