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Obama postpones meeting with Dalai Lama

September 17, 2009

By Aileen McCabe, Canwest News Service
September 15, 2009

SHANGHAI - U.S. President Barack Obama has quietly postponed an audience
with the Dalai Lama until after he visits China in November.

The move comes in the wake of Obama's decision to slap a 35 per cent import
duty on tires from China and avoids a potential second affront to Beijing.

The news was contained deep in a press release issued by the Dalai Lama
after his meeting Monday with top-level emissaries from Obama, senior White
House adviser Valerie Jarrett and State Department under secretary Maria

Issued from his home in exile in Dharamsala, India, the third from last
paragraph of the press release said: ``His Holiness is looking forward to
meeting President Obama `after' his visit to China.''

The Tibetan holy man was widely expected to meet the president as part of
his North American tour that begins in Memphis on Sept. 23, includes more
than a week in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal with events slated from Sept.
27 to Oct. 3, and ends up in Washington on Oct. 10.

The meeting was fraught with difficulty even before Obama last week signed
the tire tariff which the Chinese claim violates World Trade Organization

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a dangerous ``splittest'' who wants to
separate Tibet from China and it routinely retaliates against heads of state
and governments who deign to meet the Buddhist monk, even in a so-called
``private'' capacity.

Last year, Beijing cancelled an important summit with the European Union
after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with the Nobel Peace laureate and
bilateral relations with Germany went in the deep freeze in 2007 when
Chancellor Angela Merkel received him in the chancellery. Earlier this year,
under pressure from China, South Africa refused to even issue him a visa.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a 40-minute meeting on Parliament Hill
with the exiled spiritual leader in 2007. Canada's already cool relations
with China grew frostier still as a result. Sun Lushan, political counselor
at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, warned at the time that the meeting would
``gravely undermine'' Sino-Canadian relations and called it ``blatant
interference in China's internal affairs.''

Obama's emissaries were obviously keen to assure the Dalai Lama that just
because the president would not meet him before his first official visit to
Beijing, it did not mean he was not concerned about the Tibet issue.

The release said: ``Ms Jarrett discussed with His Holiness on the best way
the United States could assist in the resolution for the Tibetan issue,
particularly in the light of the first visit by President Obama to China in
November. His Holiness conveyed to Ms. Jarrett the issues that he would like
President Obama to make when he visits China.''

Even without a stop at the Oval Office, the 74-year-old globetrotting monk
has a punishing schedule of meetings and appearances in the U.S. and Canada
this fall.

In Vancouver, the Dalai Lama will be guest editor of the Vancouver Sun on
Sept. 26, the day before he participates in a two-day Peace Summit with six
fellow Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

He then crosses the mountains to Calgary for a speech at the Saddledome and
events at the University of Calgary on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. He wraps up the
Canadian leg of his tour in Montreal on Oct. 3 with a public lecture on The
Power of Compassion.
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