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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 April, 2004, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Dalai Lama starts Canadian visit
Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama leads a Tibetan government in-exile based in India
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has started a 19-day visit to Canada, despite protests from the Chinese authorities.

Beijing urged Canada to cancel the trip, describing the Dalai Lama as a political activist who fans separatism.

But the Dalai Lama said he was mainly a spiritual leader, not a politician and that Tibet did not seek independence from China, but greater autonomy.

The Dalai Lama is due to meet Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin on Friday.

Mr Martin said he respected China's concerns, but he was meeting the Dalai Lama as an important religious figure.

'No interest in politics'

"I consider myself a Buddhist monk rather than political," the Dalai Lama told reporters on his arrival in the western city of Vancouver.

"I have no interest in politics," he said.

During his trip, the Dalai Lama will also take part in a spiritual discussion with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iranian peace activist Shirin Ebadi and American Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.


Beijing's communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following an abortive uprising against Chinese rule and heads what he calls a government-in-exile in the mountain town of Dharmsala in India.

He has asked Beijing to resume a dialogue with his government on implementing autonomy for Tibet.

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