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FOREIGN BRIEFING

No Bible ban, China says

December 02, 2007|Mark Magnier, | Financial Times, Associated Press, Reuters

1 China

China has denied reports that visitors attending the 2008 Summer Olympics can't bring Bibles but added that they must keep their literature to themselves.

Authorities have "never promulgated such regulation as the so-called ban on Bibles in the Olympic village," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a news conference. "I'm deeply suspicious of the hidden agenda of people spreading that rumor."

Liu added, however, that foreigners entering China must confine any written, audio or video materials to personal use. Despite a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, Beijing keeps a tight grip on religious activities that it views as potentially destabilizing or politically threatening. Analysts say this stance stems in part from officials' beliefs that the Roman Catholic Church played a key role in undermining Polish Communism in the 1980s.

Beijing officials also have vowed to punish anyone who takes part in demonstrations at Olympic sites without first registering with authorities and obtaining a permit. Such permits are rarely granted.

Leading up to the Aug. 8 to 24 Games, China faces a tough balancing act as it tries to maintain order and control social activism while trying to appear enlightened and open-minded abroad.

Despite these issues, the Beijing Olympics are proving popular, with ticket demand running several times higher than for previous Olympics, according to CoSport, www.cosport.com, the official ticket vendor in the U.S.

-- Mark Magnier

2 India

Visitors to India's monuments, including the Taj Mahal, must pay in rupees, the local currency, rather than in U.S. dollars, the country's culture ministry has said. The move, which will increase costs for U.S. tourists, was an effort to counter revenue losses caused by the sharp fall in the dollar, recently trading at less than 40 rupees.

-- Financial Times

3 Libya

Libya was denying entry to tourists who didn't have Arabic translations of their passports, even if they had valid visas, according to European airlines.Tripoli did not announce the change, and government officials could not be reached for comment. The sudden change in entry rules forced planeloads of tourists to return home last month.

-- Associated Press

4 France

Transport workers returned to work after their strike to protest pension reforms crippled trains and subways for nine days. But hard-line unions said they would walk out again this month if ongoing negotiations with the government failed to produce a satisfactory solution.

-- Reuters

5 Britain

More than 300,000 advance tickets were sold for an exhibit on Tutankhamen, Egypt's boy king, that opened Nov. 15 at the O2 Bubble in Greenwich, southeast London. It's the first time the treasures of King Tut have been displayed in London in more than 30 years. The show runs through August. www .visitlondon.com/tut.

-- Reuters

Caution spots

The State Department recently issued warnings or public announcements for these countries:

Eritrea, because of travel restrictions and heightened tensions along the border with Ethiopia.

Fiji, because of an "unstable environment" after a coup last year.

Lebanon, because of safety and security concerns related to the presidential succession.

Venezuela, because of potential for political unrest surrounding a referendum scheduled for today.

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