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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 calls on Italy to back Tibetan autonomy

December 15, 2007

ROME, December 14, 2007 (AFP) — Tibetan exiled spiritual leader the
Dalai Lama called on Italy Thursday to support Tibet in its bid for
autonomy, in a speech to Italian parliament members.

"We appeal to you, help us," the Dalai Lama told lawmakers, urging both
concrete help as well as moral support.

Recent meetings between the Dalai Lama and German Chancellor Angela
Merkel and US President George W. Bush have angered Beijing.

A planned meeting with Pope Benedict XVI was cancelled, in a decision
that Italian media reports said facilitated the recent ordination of a
new bishop in Guangdong, southern China, with the Vatican's approval.

While some lawmakers wanted the speech to occur in the parliament
chamber, the president of the chamber of deputies, Fausto Bertinotti,
refused.

He argued that the only religious authority entitled to speak in the
chamber was the pope, due to his connections with Italy.

The speech instead occurred in a side room.

"We do not want independence for Tibet, but only to preserve our
cultural traditions, which enrich even those of China," the Dalai Lama said.

China made clear its disapproval of the trip to the Italian foreign
affairs ministry.

Bertinotti said he supported both Tibet's right to cultural autonomy and
strong Italy-China relations.

Conservative members of parliament said Bertinotti was "speaking as a
member of the Communist party, not as president of the lower chamber."

The Dalai Lama also met the Senate President Franco Marini, but no
official meeting with Prime Minister Romano Prodi or his government was
scheduled.

Earlier on Thursday, the Dalai Lama -- himself a Nobel Peace Prize
winner in 1989 -- met other Nobel winners at an annual summit in Rome.

Apart from the Tibetan leader, the former Russian and Polish presidents
Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa, who were awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1990 and 1983, were present, as was Hollywood actor George Clooney.

The actor was given a prize for his activism on the world stage.
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