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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 22:23 GMT
Dalai Lama is 'shunned' by Blair
Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama visits Britain in May
Tony Blair has been accused of "shunning" exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama is visiting London in May but Downing Street say "diary pressures" mean Mr Blair will not be able to meet him.

Philippa Carrick, chief executive of The Tibet Society, said: "The Dalai Lama deserves better than Tony Blair's feeble fob-off response."

US President George Bush met the Dalai Lama last year amid Chinese protests.

'Support is critical'

That was the second time the spiritual leader was welcomed to the White House by Mr Bush.

Ms Carrick said: "Tibet's spiritual leader has set a model of peaceful governance that should be applauded, not shunned.

"At this critical time for the world community, we must be seen to support those who don't resort to terrorism to fight for their human rights.

"Otherwise, what alternative is there to violence?

"If we ignore Tibet, we further the cause of global terror."

Time pressure

The Tibet Society stressed that Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell had told the Chinese Government last month that talking with the Dalai Lama's representatives was the "best way forward" on resolving the Tibet issue.

A society spokesman added: "But if Tony Blair chooses to snub the Dalai Lama, why should the Chinese listen."

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister gets lots of requests for meetings, but because of diary pressures this one isn't possible on this occasion."

The Dalai Lama is due to speak in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dunfermline during his visit to the UK at the end of May.

Autonomy call

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 - eight years after Beijing's communist troops occupied Tibet - following an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

He now heads what he calls a government-in-exile in the mountain town of Dharmsala in India.

Tibet's new governor said in August that the Dalai Lama may return to Tibet only as a Chinese citizen and only if he renounces all notions of independence.

The Dalai Lama has said that he is not looking for Tibetan independence, but for real autonomy within China.

But he has said that he will not return to Tibet if China sets any pre-conditions.

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26 May 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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04 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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