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Dalai Lama likely to be honored by Paris mayor

May 27, 2009

Associated Press
May 26, 2009

PARIS (AP) -- The Dalai Lama is likely to be
honored by the mayor of Paris during a June
visit, a Tibetan representative said Tuesday — a
meeting that could once again strain relations between France and China.

If it takes place, the Paris meeting could
unravel months of diplomacy by French officials
who have worked to repair relations with China,
strained over France's perceived support of the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama an agent of
Tibet's independence from China and objects to
all meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign leaders.

China put relations in a deep freeze for months
following a meeting between French President
Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama in Poland in
December. It suspended high-level contacts and
shut France out of lucrative European buying trips by Chinese delegations.

Ties were only righted after France last month
pledged to reject Tibetan independence in "any form."

Wangpo Bashi, of the Office of Tibet in Paris,
said Tuesday he believes Paris Mayor Bertrand
Delanoe will host a small ceremony to honor the
Dalai Lama, who was made an honorary citizen of
Paris last year. Speaking in a phone interview,
Bashi declined to provide any further details,
but French news reports said the event would take place June 6.

Earlier this month, China's Foreign Ministry
spokesman made a strongly worded warning against
formally bestowing honorary citizenship on the
Dalai Lama. The Paris city government voted last
year to approve the award, but the ceremony would bestow the honor in person.

"If the Paris city government does make this
award it will definitely meet once again with the
Chinese people's firm opposition," spokesman Ma
Zhaoxu told reporters. "We urge the Paris side to
stop doing things that interfere into China's
internal affairs and make no further errors on Tibet-related issues."

Officials at the Elysee presidential palace
declined to comment on the possible meeting,
while the mayor's spokesman, Laurent Fary, said
only that "no date has yet been set."

Tibetan representatives say the Dalai Lama will
visit the French capital from June 6-8 and give a
public conference on ethics at a Paris stadium.

Associated Press writer Laurent Pirot in Paris contributed to this report.
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