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Dalai Lama to rally support for Tibet in Germany

May 15, 2008

The Local (Germany)/AFP
May 13, 2008

The Dalai Lama leaves his Indian home in exile on Wednesday for a
tour of western powers, keeping Tibet at the centre of the world
stage ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

The Tibetan spiritual leader will visit the United States, Australia,
Britain and France.

But he flies first to Germany, where he will speak on human rights
issues two months after the eruption of bloody riots in the Tibetan
capital Lhasa.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate will however not meet Foreign
Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his weeklong stay while
Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Latin America, said the Dalai
Lama's spokesman Tenzin Takla.

A meeting between Merkel and the Buddhist monk during his last trip
to Germany in September 2007 chilled ties between Beijing and Berlin.

Germany went on to welcome talks this month between China and envoys
of the Tibetan leader to try to defuse tensions in the aftermath of
the violence.

The Dalai Lama will instead meet parliament speaker Norbert Lammert
and the state premiers of Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia, Roland
Koch and Juergen Ruettgers, Takla said.

His representative in Europe, Tseten Chhoekyap, branded Steinmeier's
decision not to meet the Dalai Lama "an unhappy one," but Takla tried
to downplay the statement.

"His Holiness does not wish to create any inconvenience for anyone or
any country," Takla said in the northern Indian hilltop town of
Dharamshala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The second leg of a five-nation swing will take the 72-year-old
spiritual leader to London for nine days, for what Takla called
political talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Dalai Lama returns to India on June 1 and after a brief pause
will leave for Australia, the United States and France, wrapping up
the tour on August 20 - just four days before the Olympics close.

Brown said he was "unhappy" with Beijing's crackdown in Tibet, which
he noted had clouded a human rights dialogue with China.

"His Holiness will talk about the protests in Tibet with Brown," Takla said.

"Eighty percent of his visits are devoted to his commitment to human
values and the promotion of religious harmony but of course since he
is meeting leaders and parliamentarians questions on the recent
unrest will be asked and answered.

"But we don't believe that these discussions on Tibet will put any
more pressure on the Dalai Lama or have any further strain on
relations between Western countries and China," Takla said.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting trouble to derail the
August Games - an allegation vehemently rejected by the Buddhist
cleric, who fled to India after a failed anti-Beijing uprising in his
homeland in 1959.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says Chinese protests about the Dalai
Lama's tour were inevitable.

"It's a routine tradition of the Chinese to protest and try to
discourage host countries from meeting the Dalai Lama," government
spokesman Thubten Samphel said.

"But it is the responsibility of His Holiness to inform governments
of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people for China,' he added.

Indian experts too warned China may not take his trip kindly.

"China is bound to make noise over this trip," warned analyst Wilson
John of the Observer Research Group, a New Delhi-based independent think-tank.

"But this may not further widen the rift which already exists in ties
between China and the Western powers as Beijing wants to keep things
under wraps until the Games are over," he said.
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