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Dissension appears in IOC senior ranks

Dissension has erupted in the senior ranks of the International Olympic Committee, with the head of its press commission suggesting that IOC president Jacques Rogge acquiesced to Chinese plans to censor Internet access during the Beijing Olympics.

Kevan Gosper, the press commission head, said he was startled to find out earlier this week that Web sites for Amnesty International or others dealing with Tibet, Tiananmen Square or the spiritual group Falun Gong would be blocked in the work rooms for reporters covering the games.

China's communist government routinely filters its own citizens' access to the Internet. But for months Gosper, Rogge and others have publicly said Beijing agreed to unblock the web during the games, and they touted the shift as a sign of the Olympics' liberalizing effect on China. The reversal, Gosper said, left him feeling like the "fall guy."

"I would be surprised if someone made a change without at least informing" Rogge, Gosper said in an interview Thursday. "But I really do not know the detail. I only know the ground rules on censorship have changed but have only been announced here. It must have related to a former understanding to which I was not a party."

"This certainly isn't what we guaranteed the international media and it's certainly contrary to normal circumstances of reporting on Olympic Games," added Gosper, a long-serving IOC member from Australia.

Rogge arrived in Beijing on Thursday, but declined to speak as he left the airport. The issue is sure to persist during five days of IOC meetings ahead of the Aug. 8 opening of the Beijing Games.

Television broadcasters have also said that Beijing is reneging on promises for unfettered access and live broadcasts.

The complaints add to other controversies over pollution and human rights that have tarnished an Olympics which the government hoped would showcase China as an open, rising power.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies linked some of the problems to misunderstandings.

"We're working with the organizers to understand what the issues are here," Davies said. "There has been quite a lot of confusion."

Beijing, Thursday, AP

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