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Dalai Lama meets German minister

Latest update : 2008-05-19

The Dalai Lama met with the German development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, in Berlin to discuss Tibet's relations with China. The Chinese embassy accused the Tibetan leader of "playing politics". (Report: L.Kammourieh)

The Dalai Lama held talks with the German development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, on Monday in a meeting that has  raised fresh tension with China.
  
Wieczorek-Zeul said they discussed Tibet and its ties with China during the meeting in Berlin that lasted well over an hour and drew protest from the Chinese embassy.
  
"I stressed how important peaceful dialogue with China can be," she told reporters, reiterating Berlin's demands for direct talks between Tibetan representatives and Beijing.
  
"The position of the federal government on this issue is very clear and I have stated it again here."
  
It was the highest-level political meeting yet of the Dalai Lama's latest tour of Western nations that is likely to keep a spotlight on Tibet after anti-Chinese unrest in March ended in bloodshed.
  
China this month resumed talks with Tibetan envoys in a move seen as a response to condemnation of its military crackdown on the protests -- which caused international controversy in the runup to the Beijing Olympic Games.
  
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who infuriated Beijing last year by meeting the Dalai Lama and backing his quest for cultural autonomy for Tibet, on Monday welcomed the Beijing-Tibet talks.
  
"The Chancellor expressly welcomes the resumption of dialogue," government spokesman Thomas Steg said, adding that Berlin trusted the Dalai Lama's meeting with a German minister would not jeopardise the process.
  
"We do not believe that today's meeting will have a negative impact on the dialogue forming between China and the Dalai Lama's representatives on developments in Tibet and perhaps also in neighbouring regions."
  
The Buddhist leader and Nobel peace laureate began a five-nation tour in Frankfurt last week with an attack on China's response to the unrest, accusing Beijing of "suppression" and spreading "resentment" beyond Tibet's borders.
  
Tibetan leaders say the Chinese crackdown left more than 200 people dead. Beijing has countered that Tibetan "rioters" and "insurgents" killed 21 people and accused the Dalai Lama of being behind the violence -- a charge he denies.
  
The Dalai Lama has said that he is not seeking independence for Tibet, which China annexed in 1951, but cultural autonomy.
  
"We want to live in peace with our Chinese brothers and sisters. We are not seeking independence," he said in a speech in Germany on Friday.
  
Thousands turned out to see the Dalai Lama in Bochum and Nuremberg and he was greeted Monday in Berlin by more flag-waving supporters. But a speech at the Brandenburg Gate later in the day was expected to draw Chinese protestors as well.
  
The Chinese embassy lodged a complaint over the talks with Wieczorek-Zeul and accused him of "playing politics" in the run-up to the Olympics.
  
"We object to a member of the German government receiving the Dalai Lama and to Germany allowing him to carry out this visit," embassy official Zhang Junhui said last week.
  
Merkel was the first German leader to receive the Dalai Lama in the chancellery and the move caused a deep diplomatic rift with Beijing that only recently began to heal.
  
Merkel will not be meeting the Dalai Lama as she is in Latin America, but her readiness to confront China -- and the designation of a minister to receive him -- has caused further strife in her fraught ruling coalition.
  
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who favours quiet diplomacy on Tibet, declined to meet him and was reportedly furious that fellow Social Democrat Wieczorek-Zeul failed to inform him of her plans to do so.
  
Merkel's office denied claims that she had orchestrated the meeting to sow dissent within the Social Democrats, her conservatives' coalition partners, but said she was "very happy" it took place.
  
The Dalai Lama was to address a parliamentary foreign affairs committee on Monday, an event that has also prompted objections from China.
  
After Germany, he is to go to Britain, Australia, the United States and France in a three-month tour ending in mid-August -- just before the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics.

Date created : 2008-05-19

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