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Dalai Lama urges dialogue before Sarkozy meeting

By Gareth Jones, Reuters, Dec 6, 2008

GDANSK, Poland -- Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama called on Saturday for dialogue and compassion to solve global problems in a message overshadowed by China's rage at the French president's plans to meet him.

President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to meet the Dalai Lama at 1530 GMT in the Polish Baltic port of Gdansk where both men were attending celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of Polish pro-democracy icon Lech Walesa's winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

China called off a summit with the EU last Monday in protest against Sarkozy's decision to meet the Dalai Lama. Beijing brands the Dalai Lama, himself a Nobel Laureate, as a 'splittist' for advocating self-determination for his homeland.

'Warfare failed to solve our problems in the last century, so this century should be a century of dialogue. Every problem must be solved through talks, understanding of others' interests, others' rights,' he said.

'War means dividing, compassion brings us together. As social animals the key factor for our life is compassion,' he told hundreds of delegates, including Walesa, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and other Nobel laureates.

The Dalai Lama steered clear of politics in his short homily, in which he praised Polish courage and determination in resisting past oppression.

The 73-year-old monk is a popular figure in Poland, where some see in his struggle with China's communist authorities echoes of their own battles under Walesa against Soviet-backed communist rule that ended in 1989.

CHINESE WRATH

Beijing's criticism of Sarkozy's planned meeting has been unusually strong and has been accompanied by calls from Chinese nationalists for a boycott of French products.

An official in Sarkozy's office attributed the strength of the Chinese reaction to the fact that France currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency.

'The Chinese believe that we have the power to enforce discipline among the (27) countries of the European Union... (But) we are not the teachers of the European classroom,' the official told reporters in Paris.

The official also said there had been no sign yet of any Chinese boycott of French products, noting that the EU is China's biggest trade partner and that supermarket chain Carrefour employs tens of thousands of people in China and is the biggest purchaser of Chinese goods in France.

French companies were subjected to Chinese boycotts and demonstrations earlier this year after the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay was disrupted by anti-China protesters.

Under a headline 'Tibet: Sarkozy's Chinese torture', the left-wing daily Liberation, which is usually critical of the president, said the Gdansk meeting with the Dalai Lama was the end of a game of 'hide and seek' between the pair.

Sarkozy did not meet the Buddhist leader when he visited France in August. The daily said Sarkozy chose to meet him instead in Poland in the hope of weakening the impact of the encounter on Sino-French relations.

The Dalai Lama and other supporters of Tibetan self-rule say China is strangling the mountain region's cultural and religious traditions and subordinating Tibetans to an influx of Han Chinese migrants and investment, charges Beijing rejects.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after a failed insurrection against Chinese rule in Tibet, occupied by People's Liberation Army troops from 1950.

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris)



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