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Dalai Lama urges EU to stand firm

By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels

Dalai Lama (2 December 2008)
The Dalai Lama insists his goal is meaningful autonomy for his homeland

The Dalai Lama has urged the EU to stand firm on the issue of human rights in order to protect the long-term interests of the Chinese people.

Tibet's spiritual leader told the BBC that they wanted freedom of expression, a free media and the rule of law.

He also said he planned to reach out to the Chinese by meeting their writers and intellectuals in the coming months.

The Dalai Lama is due to address the European Parliament and meet the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, this week.

In response, the Chinese government has cancelled its annual summit with the EU, warning that the meeting would put relations at risk.

'Immense help'

The Chinese authorities call him a wolf in monk's clothing and a devil with a human face, hell-bent on breaking Tibet away from China.

The 73-year-old Dalai Lama insists his goal is meaningful autonomy for his homeland.

I'm quite sure it will be a new face in the White House but the same policy
Dalai Lama

He now wants to reach out to the Chinese people, by inviting Chinese writers and scholars to meet him in the next few months, at a location yet to be decided.

But he is also calling on Europe, Beijing's main trading partner, to stand firm on human rights.

"Our friends should take firm stand," he told the BBC. "That I think for the long run is an immense help to the Chinese people."

"[The] Chinese people also want freedom of expression, free media and rule of law," he added. "If you adopt an attitude of appeasement, in the long run [it is] in no-one's interest."

The Dalai Lama's European tour includes an address to the European Parliament, meetings with the Belgian and Czech prime ministers and with fellow Nobel Peace Prize-laureates like Poland's Lech Walesa.

Pro-Tibet activists at a rally in Lyon calling for the protection of human rights (30 November 2008)
Many Europeans also want the EU to support the Dalai Lama's efforts

But it is his planned talks with the President Sarkozy of France, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, at the weekend that has led China to scrap its annual summit with the bloc in an unprecedented sign of anger.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government warned the US to stop interfering in its affairs after President George W Bush called the Dalai Lama to inquire after his health.

The exiled spiritual leader said he would miss the outgoing president.

"I love Mr Bush - very straightforward, very nice person as a human being. But some of his policies, I don't know. In some cases, a little disaster!" he joked.

The Dalai Lama said he had met President-elect Barack Obama years ago and had kept in touch during the campaign.

On Tibet, he said: "I'm quite sure it will be a new face in the White House but the same policy."

As for his own future, the Dalai Lama said, with a typical giggle, that he was in no hurry to retire and hoped to remain Tibet's spiritual leader for another 10 or 15 years.

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