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Merkel's meeting with Dalai Lama draws cool response from China

September 25, 2007

Associated Press with a report from staff

The Globe and Mail
September 24, 2007

BERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama in a
government office yesterday, provoking an angry Chinese response, a
reaction that Prime Minister Stephen Harper can expect when he meets
with the Tibetan leader next month.

Ms. Merkel and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, clad in his red
robes and smiling, shook hands for photographers after their meeting at
the chancellery but made no remarks.

The Dalai Lama, who had previously met Ms. Merkel when she was German
opposition leader, then walked out of the chancellery gates to greet a
crowd of supporters and onlookers. He said that the Chancellor "kept old
friendships, so [I'm] very happy."

German officials have characterized the meeting - the first time the
Dalai Lama has been received at the chancellery - as a private encounter
with a religious leader that has no bearing on policy toward China.

However, earlier this month China summoned Germany's ambassador to the
Foreign Ministry in Beijing, and on the weekend cancelled a meeting on
patent issues between Chinese and German officials in Munich.

Last Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said
Beijing expressed "our solemn position to Germany" about the Dalai
Lama's visit, saying he was using religion to further his political
agenda and denouncing "his splittist activities."

Mr. Harper's meeting with the Dalai Lama is expected to go farther than
that of former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, whose 2004 encounter
was a private five-minute session at the official residence of the
Catholic archbishop of Ottawa.

Mr. Harper's coming meeting in a federal building is in keeping with the
hard line on Tibet taken by the Conservatives since coming to office
last year. It is also an important event for the Prime Minister, who
kept a scarf he received from the Dalai Lama as the leader of the
opposition in 2004.

In another apparent sign of tension, China cancelled a meeting planned
yesterday to discuss legal issues with German Justice Minister Brigitte
Zypries and other officials. It cited "technical reasons" and did not
mention the Dalai Lama's meeting with Ms. Merkel, according to the
German government.

The 72-year-old Buddhist monk's visit came three days after he met
Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer at the chancellery in Vienna.

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