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Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Sunday, 30 August 2009 17:06 UK

Dalai Lama embarks on Taiwan trip

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Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama arrives in Taipei, Taiwan on a mission to comfort storm victims

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has arrived in Taiwan for a visit that has sparked anger from China.

He travelled from Taipei to southern Taiwan to comfort to those affected by last month's Typhoon Morakot, the worst typhoon there in 50 years.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou approved the visit after his government was accused of offering a slow and inefficient response to the typhoon.

China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist seeking Tibet independence.

At least 571 people were killed, with another 106 missing and feared dead in the typhoon.

As the Dalai Lama arrived at a Taipei train station, there was a scuffle between police and some 50 supporters of Tibet's unification with China, the Associated Press news agency reported.

On Monday, the Dalai Lama will visit the worst-hit village of Hsiaolin, where nearly 500 people were buried by a mudslide.

Pro-China criticism

He will lead a mass prayer and address the island's Buddhist followers during his five-day visit.

However, he has cancelled a press conference after criticism from pro-China groups about his decision to visit and a request from Taiwan to refrain from discussing politics.

Prior to arriving, the Dalai Lama told reporters that his trip was of a "non-political" nature, and that he was going to Taiwan for humanitarian and religious reasons.

Last week, Beijing said it was "resolutely opposed" to the Dalai Lama's visit.

Tibet and Taiwan are highly sensitive issues for the Chinese government, as it claims both as its territory.

Despite agreeing to the visit, President Ma has announced he will not meet the Dalai Lama - a move seen as wanting closer economic ties with China which is its biggest trade partner, reports the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei.



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