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Dalai Lama seeks Olympics invitation

May 22, 2008

May 21, 2008

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Dalai Lama has said he is "happy" to attend this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, China, if he is invited.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was speaking to reporters Wednesday during a 12-day visit to Britain that also includes a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Asked whether China would like him to attend the Games, the Dalai Lama responded: "That I don't know. No indication." But he said any visit would depend on a meeting with Chinese authorities.

"I'm happy to go there, but (it will) entirely depend on our meeting," he said. "If (the) meeting becomes something concrete, constructive -- and in the meantime (the) situation inside Tibet improves, and (it) appears some kind of long-term solution (can) happen, then I'm ready (to) go there if (the) invitation comes."

Beijing blames the Dalai Lama and his followers for violence that erupted in the region in March amid demonstrations for Tibetan independence. The Chinese authorities cracked down on the protests, which began peacefully on the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising.

Tibet's self-proclaimed government-in-exile put the death toll from the protests at 140, but Chinese government restrictions made it difficult to confirm that number. Chinese authorities reported 19 people were killed, and said most of those were Han Chinese targeted by Tibetans.

The Olympic torch relay is currently working its way through mainland China -- although it was on hold through Wednesday for a three-day suspension to honor victims of the deadly earthquake that struck last week -- and is scheduled to pass through Tibet from June 19-21.

The Dalai Lama said he "definitely" supports having the torch go through Tibet.

He also praised the response of the Chinese authorities to the quake. And while he acknowledged that forging economic links with China was important for Britain and the West, he said they must not ignore human rights issues.

"The economy is important, but human values are more important: human issues like human rights," he said.

"While you are making close relationship in the business field, there is no point in forgetting about principles. I think that is very important."

He dismissed criticisms of the British prime minister's refusal to meet him at his Downing Street office, instead hosting a meeting at the Archbishop of Canterbury's residence, Lambeth Palace. The Dalai Lama insisted his visit had always been meant to be "non political."
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