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BEIJING 2008

World leaders arrive in Beijing

2 min

More than 80 world leaders are expected in Beijing for the politicized Olympics opening ceremony. US President George W. Bush and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (photo) have arrived, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due on Friday.

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US President George W. Bush and a host of other world leaders poured into the Chinese capital Thursday ahead of the start of what could be the most political Olympics in decades.

More than 80 heads of state and government, and royals are expected to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games on Friday, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

Before arriving in Beijing, Bush repeatedly highlighted during a speech in Thailand Washington's "deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights" in China.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a fluent Mandarin speaker, also pledged before departing for Beijing on Thursday to raise China's human rights record with the Chinese leadership.

Ahead of his departure, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday sent China a list of prisoners and rights activists whose cases were a matter of concern for the European Union, the French foreign ministry said.

Sarkozy was scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Friday at 11:30 am (0330 GMT) and was expected leave shortly after the ceremony.

China has repeatedly said that politics should play no part in the Beijing Olympics, amid a wide range of controversies in the run-up to the Games such as its rule of Tibet, media freedoms and jailings of dissidents.

Other leaders who arrived on Thursday included Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Philippines President Gloria Arroyo, Xinhua reported.

Ghanaian President John Kufuor, Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza also arrived, according to the agency.

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