WASHINGTON Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday called on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Beijing, a fresh sign that politics, not sports, may take center stage at the Summer Games.
The Democratic presidential candidate said a boycott would underscore U.S. concerns about recent unrest in Tibet and questions about China's relationship with Sudan.
"The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for presidential leadership," she said.
She said Bush should not plan on attending the ceremonies "absent major changes by the Chinese government."
Her rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama, recently said he was conflicted about whether the U.S. should fully participate.
Bush has said he will attend the Olympics because it is a sporting event, not a political event.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters Monday that Bush's position had not changed, nor had the administration's concerns about China's human rights record.
"We have never been afraid to express those views either directly by the president or the president's senior advisers when they travel to China and publicly," Fratto said.
Obama issued a statement late Monday saying he has been "deeply disturbed by the recent events in Tibet, and have communicated my concerns in public and to President Bush," adding that if China does not take quick steps to respect rights and freedoms in Tibet, "there should be consequences."
The political debate over China's hosting role is rapidly overtaking the sports-themed torch ceremonies around the globe.
In Paris on Monday, organizers canceled the final leg of the traditional torch run through the city. In the face of chaotic protests and repeated attempts to douse the torch, organizers snuffed out the flame and put the torch aboard a bus in a humiliating concession to protesters decrying China's human rights record.
At least two activists got almost an arm's length away before they were seized by police. Another protester threw water at the torch but failed to put it out before being taken away.
The disturbances in Paris followed similar efforts in London on Sunday, where the torch was run through another gauntlet of protesters.
Clinton's announcement comes as her campaign tries to recover from jettisoning its chief campaign strategist this weekend for his involvement with a U.S.-Colombia free trade deal she opposes.
Rival Obama said in a TV interview earlier this month that he was "of two minds" when it came to full U.S. participation in the Olympics.
"On the one hand, I think that what has happened in Tibet, China's support for the Sudanese government in Darfur, is a real problem," he said, before adding: "I am hesitant to make the Olympics a site of political protest because I think it's partly about bringing the world together."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among other U.S. lawmakers, has suggested Bush should consider staying away from the opening ceremonies following China's crackdown on protesters in Tibet.