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Dalai Lama reiterates resignation threat over Tibet

AFP/de, April 14, 2008

SEATTLE, Washington (USA) -- The Dalai Lama on Sunday reiterated a threat to resign if violence in Tibet spiralled out of control, and rejected claims he is seeking to split the Himalayan region from China.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a five-day conference on compassion, where he is making his first overseas trip since China's crackdown on protests in the region.

"The whole world knows the Dalai Lama is not seeking independence or separation," the Dalai Lama said. "If violence become out of control, then my only option is resign - I want to repeat that.

"If the majority of people commit violently, then I will resign."

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in northern India since a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, has repeatedly threatened to step down in the event of sustained violence in Tibet after some of the biggest protests the region has seen in years erupted last month.

Beijing has accused the Nobel peace laureate of instigating the unrest and of seeking to split the predominantly Buddhist territory from China.

On Saturday, Chinese President Hu Jintao defended the crackdown in Tibet and denied the disturbances were linked to human rights.

"Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as telling Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

"It is a problem (of) either safeguarding national unification or splitting the motherland."

Tibetan exiles say more than 150 Tibetans were killed in China's crackdown on the protests against its rule. Beijing says Tibetan "rioters" have killed 20 people.

The crackdown triggered a wave of international criticism of China and has led to calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Violent protests have followed the Olympic torch on several stops of its international relay.

The Dalai Lama again repeated his support for the Olympics, but defended the right of protesters to "express their deep feeling."

"Everyone knows I support Olympic Games," he said, declining to state whether he believed world leaders should attend August's opening ceremony.

"That is, I really feel, up to the individual," he said. "My own case, I don't think I will get an invitation. If some invitation comes, then the situation - the most important question is not a question of invitation, it is the situation inside Tibet."

He called for the release of those arrested during the crackdown, medical treatment for those injured, and the opening of Tibet to international monitors so that they might freely investigate. - AFP/de

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