Dalai Lama begins Germany tour with calls for Tibet’s autonomy (Lead)

May 15th, 2008 - 7:44 pm ICT by admin  

Frankfurt, May 15 (DPA) The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who arrived here Thursday on a five-day tour of Germany, called for “genuine autonomy” in his native Tibet but stressed that he did not want the territory’s complete independence from China. Talks between his representatives and the Chinese government had failed to generate the trust that was necessary to resolve the issue, he said on the first day of a visit to Germany.

On the devastating earthquake in China, the Tibetan spiritual leader said he was deeply affected by Monday’s earthquake which left 15,000 dead and 30,000 missing in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The 72-year-old, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his efforts to achieve a non-violent solution to the Tibetan problem, said he would pray for the victims.

Frankfurt was the opening leg of his Germany visit which will see the Dalai Lama speak on human rights and meet with a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet in Berlin.

After his plane touched down, the Tibetan spiritual leader attended a breakfast hosted by Roland Koch, the conservative premier of the state of Hesse where Frankfurt is located.

Chinese officials and representatives of the Dalai Lama have been meeting in the Chinese city of Shenzen to discuss the situation in Tibet, following freedom demonstrations in March that left an undetermined number of dead.

On Wednesday, China protested at the Dalai Lama’s planned meetings with Economic Assistance Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul and legislators at the German parliament.

The “Dalai Lama is not a a normal monk, but a political exile who carries out anti-Chinese and separatist activities abroad under the guise of religion, human rights and autonomy”, a statement released by the Chinese embassy said.

The talks with Wieczorek-Zeul and members of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee are due to take place May 19 when the Dalai Lama will also deliver a speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

The run-up to the visit was marked by a domestic row because no member of Merkel’s government was prepared to meet him. The meeting with the economic assistance minister was arranged at the last minute.

Merkel is in Latin America and her deputy, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, turned down an official request for a meeting because he does not have time.

China has previously warned Germany not to offer the Dalai Lama “a platform for his separatist activities” related to his calls for greater autonomy for his native Tibet.

Merkel met the Dalai Lama at the federal chancellery last September, a move which led to a chill in relations between Berlin and Beijing that ended only in January after intense German diplomatic efforts.

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