Dalai Lama meets Belgian PM on tour that has angered China

4th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Tibetan spiritual leader's tour led to the postponement of a China-EU summit.

4 December 2008

BRUSSELS - Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama met Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme on Wednesday, the latest leg of a European tour which has upset Beijing and led to the postponement of a China-EU summit.

The Nobel peace Laureate will address the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday and is scheduled to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's presidency, in Poland on Saturday.

In response, China has scrapped a summit with the European Union in France.

China has for many years opposed foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama, who it maintains is trying to win independence for his Himalayan homeland that has been under Chinese rule since 1951.

The Dalai Lama in turn insists he only wants meaningful autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule.

The meeting with Leterme was a 25-minute courtesy call at the prime minister's official residence, a Belgian government spokesman said.

"He was received as a spiritual figure. What was said will remain between them," he added.

The showpiece of the 73-year-old Buddhist leader's visit to Brussels will be Thursday's speech in front of the European Parliament, as part of the chamber's year of intercultural dialogue

Later in the day he will visit the Belgian parliament where he will meet the senators and deputies who wish to see him but is not due to address the chamber formally.

EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said he would be in Luxembourg and therefore wouldn't meet the Dalai Lama, while stressing that he did meet the Tibetan spiritual leader during his last visit to Brussels in 2006.

On Monday, during a visit to Prague, the Dalai Lama called on the world to stand firm when dealing with China, while recognising that the Asian economic giant could not be ignored.

During the visit to Prague, the Dalai Lama met former Czech president Vaclav Havel, a longtime friend, as well as Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.

Havel said in the Czech capital that the Tibet situation required "patience, endurance but also some vigilance, because certain irreversible things are happening, such as the transfers of Chinese people to Tibet."

The Dalai Lama has sought "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet since he fled his homeland following a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region.

China claims he actually seeks full independence.


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