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Leaders poles apart over Dalai Lama

December 8, 2009

The Dominion Post

Last updated 05:00 05/12/2009

The Dalai Lama met with opposition leader Phil Goff after arriving in
New Zealand with a flurry of diplomatic protocol hanging over him.

They met yesterday in the $3500-a-night Royal Suite of Auckland's
Langham Hotel. A Tibetan flag flew briefly on the poles outside.

But it was quickly taken down, with Langham duty manager Jabez Lobo
saying hotel policy was that non-New Zealand flags should fly only on
official Government-hosted visits. He did not know how it had come to be
hoisted in the first place.

Thuten Kesang, chairman of the Friends of Tibet organisation, supplied
the flag and was unhappy it was pulled down.

"His holiness is the head of the Tibetan people and I think it's
important that we show some respect by flying the flag.

"I can't see any reason why we couldn't fly the flag. It's not harming
anybody and this is a free country."

Mr Goff said he knew nothing of the flag furore. He was meeting the
Tibetan spiritual leader because "he is a well-travelled, well-informed
person and I respect his opinions."

Prime Minister John Key refused to meet the Dalai Lama. He denied China
had put pressure on him but admitted its disapproval was a factor.

Mr Goff said that, if he was prime minister, he would still meet the
Dalai Lama.

"I met with him when I was foreign minister, I don't see any difference
whether I'm a member of the executive or a leader of the Opposition. I'm
meeting with him in his capacity as a spiritual and cultural leader and
as a very nice person."

The opening line of the conversation was the weather ? it was raining.
"Actually, I love this kind of weather," said the Dalai Lama, saying it
was good for farmers.

 From there the two moved on to global warming and into private discussions.

"Last time I met with his holiness we talked about all of the problems
of the world; it was a very wide ranging discussion," Mr Goff said.
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