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Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK

UK Politics

Dalai Lama meets Blair

China frowns on meetings with the Dalai Lama

Relations between Beijing and London are set for trouble when MPs welcome the Dalai Lama to Parliament days after the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

Brits in Balkans
The visit follows confirmation that the Tibetan spiritual leader met Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday - his first such contact with a UK Government leader since Labour took office in 1997.

Few details of the meeting have emerged. But the government, keen not to further enrage Chinese sensibilities, has stressed that it does not recognise the Dalai Lama as the head of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

The BBC's Emily Buchanan: The prime minister doesn't want to provoke more Chinese wrath
London has said that it was in his "spiritual capacity" that the Dalai Lama was received by the prime minister. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is also due to hold a similar meeting with the spiritual leader.

However, the Dalai Lama's trip to Westminister on Tuesday appears to offer ample opportunity to upset Beijing.

He is due to attend a news conference with the All Party Parliamentary group for Tibet at Westminster and will meet the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Later he will address an audience of Parliamentarians and diplomats before attending a lunch at which ministers and other MPs will be present.

Bad timing

China routinely condemns foreign governments' contacts with the Dalai Lama - seeing discussions with him as implying support for the Tibetan independence movement.

This visit was arranged long before the Nato bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by mistake.

[ image: The Dalai Lama is on a six-day visit]
The Dalai Lama is on a six-day visit
But in the current climate the timing is bound to be seen as particularly unfortunate by diplomats who are trying to patch up relations with Beijing following the air strike on Friday which killed three Chinese journalists.

The Dalai Lama will be opening a Tibetan Peace Garden in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum in Southwark, south London, on Thursday.

He will also be teaching hundreds of UK Buddhists during his six-day visit.

It is his ninth visit to Britain and comes two months after the 40th anniversary of the crushing of the Tibetan revolt against China, and his exile into India.

On Monday the junior Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean told the Lords the UK was continuing to urge China, the Tibetans and the exiled Dalai Lama to enter into negotiations.

"The best way to achieve a lasting solution is by dialogue between the Chinese government and the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama without pre-existing conditions," she said.

"We will continue to urge China to enter such a dialogue."

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