Sarkozy, Bruni hike Great Wall, wander Ming Tombs on sightseeing break during China visit
BEIJING – BEIJING (AP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, walked the centuries-old Great Wall and wandered the imperial Ming Tombs on a sightseeing stop Thursday during their visit to China.
Sarkozy's trip is being billed as a return to healthy diplomatic relations between the countries after spats over Tibet. The French leader is also pressing Beijing to support further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
Hours before Sarkozy's planned meeting with top lawmaker Wu Bangguo, the French first couple visited the Ming Tombs and a section of the Great Wall usually closed to the public, said French officials who declined to be named according to government policy.
The officials would not provide further details, saying the visit was private and not open to the media.
On Beijing's outskirts, the tombs were chosen by 13 of the 16 Ming Dynasty emperors, who ruled between 1368 and 1644, as their last resting place.
Sarkozy travels to Shanghai on Friday, where he will attend the opening ceremony for the World Expo and visit France's stand at the festival.
The couple played tourists Wednesday, too, making a stop in the western city of Xi'an and visiting the life-size terracotta warriors at the famed ancient tomb of China's first emperor.
Sarkozy also met Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and stressed the urgency of ongoing efforts to curb Iran's nuclear activities, saying new sanctions must be imposed on Tehran if negotiations fail.
The United States and its Western allies are pressing for quick adoption of an array of tough sanctions, but Russia and China are still hoping that diplomacy will lead Iran to the negotiating table and have indicated they will only agree to much weaker measures if Tehran refuses. Iran says it only wants the technology to produce nuclear power.
The two leaders said Hu had accepted Sarkozy's invitation to visit France in the fall.
Relations nose-dived in 2008 after protests by exiled Tibetans and other activists during the Olympic torch's passage through Paris and Sarkozy's talks with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.