France's Sarkozy meets Dalai Lama as China fumes
AFP - 2 hours 59 minutes ago
GDANSK, Poland (AFP) - - In a move which has China fuming, French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama Saturday at a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in Gdansk, Poland.
"The Dalai Lama confirmed what I already knew, that he will not demand independence for Tibet and I told him how important I thought it was to pursue dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese authorities," Sarkozy said after their meeting.
"The Dalai Lama also told me of his concerns over Tibet," Sarkozy said, adding that the 73-year-old "indicated how much he supported my visit to Beijing for the Olympic Games" opening ceremony. The president's decision to travel in August inflamed France's political opposition and human rights campaigners.
Sarkozy is the only European head of state to meet the Dalai Lama while holding the EU's rotating presidency.
"I am free as the French president and the EU president, I have values and convictions. Let's not make things tense, the world doesn't need it and it doesn't correspond to reality," Sarkozy added.
Addressing China's outrage over his move to meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, Sarkozy said: "One must approach this calmly.
"The world needs an open China that participates in global governance. China needs a powerful Europe that gives work to Chinese enterprise," he said.
The French leader's decision to go ahead with the meeting has so far seen Beijing retaliate by scrapping a China-EU summit in France and warning multi-billion-dollar bilateral China-France trade deals could suffer.
"We have not noticed any kind of start of a boycott of our products," a French presidential official told AFP Saturday.
Commenting on whether EU-China relations and trade could suffer over his planned meeting with Sarkozy, the Dalai Lama on Friday remarked: "China also needs Europe.
"The original initiative of some pressure, sometimes is not followed by action," he said.
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk also met with the Dalai Lama Saturday in the northern city of Gdansk, where as a past recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize he had been invited to ceremonies marking 25 years since Poland's anti-communist Solidarity icon Lech Walesa received the honour.
The former union leader is regarded as a key figure in the peaceful collapse of communism in Poland in 1989. The Dalai Lama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize the same year.
With tears in his eyes, Walesa, the Gdansk shipyard electrician turned international freedom icon, made plain his joy over the weekend Nobel gathering at a Saturday debate on world peace which included the Dalai Lama and fellow Nobel laureate, former South African president F.W. de Klerk, among others.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also attended Saturday's ceremonies in Gdansk.
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, has sought "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet since he fled his homeland following a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region.
China argues he is actually seeking full independence, something he on Friday called a "totally baseless" claim.
"We are willing to remain within the People's Republic of China provided that we have our own culture including our own language and spirituality... our rich compassionate, non-violent culture," he said.
"When China becomes more democratic, with freedom of speech, with rule of law and particularly with freedom of the press... once China becomes an open, modern society, then the Tibet issue, I think within a few days, can be solved," the Dalai Lama had stated.
The meeting between France's Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama is "a very strong signal" for Tibetans and their country "where the situation nearly resembles that of martial law," head of France's Tibetan community Wangpo Bashi told radio France-Info Saturday.
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