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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama says sorry he can't meet Pope

December 10, 2007

MILAN Fri Dec 7, 2007 (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama said on Friday he was
sorry he could not see Pope Benedict during a 10-day visit to Italy in
which most politicians have shied away from meeting him.

China sees the Dalai Lama's world wanderings as a serious diplomatic
offence and the Chinese ambassador to Italy called on politicians not to
meet the Dalai Lama, local media have said.

The Tibetan spiritual leader expressed his esteem for the head of the
Catholic Church, recalling that the destination of his first visit to
Europe, in 1973, was Italy, precisely because it was home to the Pope.

But the Vatican has ruled out any meetings with the head of the Catholic
Church this time around.

"In the past, every time I came to Italy I met (the Pope). This time the
Pope has had some difficulties ... I am sorry about it," the Dalai Lama,
72, told Italian daily La Repubblica, adding he missed former Pope John
Paul II very much.

Pope Benedict, who has made improving ties with China a goal of his
pontificate, had a strictly private meeting with the Tibetan spiritual
leader in October last year.

"I have met Pope (Joseph) Ratzinger once. He told me how important it is
to reconcile faith and reason, a wonderful thing," the Dalai Lama said.

The Dalai Lama arrived in Milan on December 5 and will also visit Udine,
Rome and Turin. So far only the head of the northern region of Lombardy
has accepted to meet him at an official level with no meetings scheduled
at government level.

Braving the winter cold, the Dalai Lama appeared on Friday at the
Lombardy region headquarters wearing his trademark purple-and-orange
gown and flip-flops to meet President Roberto Formigoni.

As the Beijing 2008 Olympics near, the Dalai Lama has been racking up
air miles to meet western leaders.

This year he met U.S. President George W. Bush and the leaders of
Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

When asked about Chinese comments while on his way to meet thousands of
Italian followers, the Dalai Lama told reporters: "They have the freedom
to say what they want."

"It's absolutely wrong to isolate China and people have the moral
responsibility to bring China into the world community," he also said.

"But in certain principles you should be firm, although within an
atmosphere of genuine friendship."

(Reporting by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Stephen Weeks)

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