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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
Dalai Lama welcomed in Mongolia
The Dalai Lama making a speech
The Dalai Lama's speech focused on family values
Thousands of people have turned out to greet the Dalai Lama on his first visit to Mongolia since 2002, despite Chinese government protests.

Tibet's spiritual leader visited the country's largest monastery in Ulan Bator, in a visit which the government stressed was purely religious.

However the Chinese government accused the exiled leader of having a "splittist" agenda for his homeland.

Mongolia is a majority Buddhist country with strong traditional ties to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama arrived at the Gandantegcheling monastery traditionally dressed in saffron and maroon coloured robes, amid cheering crowds.

He shook hands and touched people on the forehead as they held out their hands to receive his blessing. Later, his followers touched the chair on which he sat to deliver his 20-minute address, which focused on family values.

The 1989 Nobel peace prize winner will spend a week in Mongolia where he will give several lectures and appear on TV.

Government sources say a personal meeting with the president is likely.

'Private visit'

The Chinese authorities issued a statement which said: "The Dalai Lama is not merely a religious figure, but a political exile who over a lengthy period has engaged in splittist activities and hurt national unity.

"China is resolutely opposed to any country offering him a stage to engage in the above-mentioned activities."

Foreign ministry officials in Mongolia stressed the visit had been organised by the Gandantegcheling monastery and not the government.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 amid an uprising against the Chinese military, has said he only wants limited autonomy for his homeland, but China believes he has separatist aims.

During his last visit to Mongolia in 2002, trains were held up at the Chinese border. This morning, an Air China flight bound for the Mongolian capital was delayed. Officials in Beijing said weather conditions were poor, despite sunshine in Ulan Bator.


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