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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Development minister agrees to meet Dalai Lama in Berlin

May 15, 2008

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
May 14, 2008 19:15]

Berlin has designated Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul
to meet the Dalai Lama on behalf of the government during his
upcoming visit to Germany, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The announcement came after news that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
Steinmeier will not meet the Tibetan spiritual leader during his
week-long stay from Thursday sparked criticism that Berlin was bowing
to pressure from China.

Chancellor Angela Merkel - whose meeting with the Dalai Lama in
September 2007 caused a deep chill in relations between Germany and
China - is currently in Latin America and will not meet him either.

"The minister will meet the Dalai Lama on behalf of the government
this coming Monday," government spokesman Thomas Steg told a press
conference. He rejected the notion that the German government was
being less welcoming than during his last visit for fear of another
diplomatic incident, saying: "It gives me pleasure to be able to
refute this criticism."

"We have been convinced that, despite the scheduling difficulties of
several members of government, we should try to speak to the Dalai
Lama during this visit to discuss the situation in Tibet and other
provinces, as well as the situation ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing."

The government said the meeting would take place in Berlin but
probably not at Wieczorek-Zeul's ministry itself.

The 1989 Nobel peace laureate was due to leave his home in exile in
India Wednesday on a tour of Germany, Britain, the United States,
Australia and France that will conclude days before the end of the
Olympic Games.

He was expected in Germany on Thursday for a five-day visit, and will
speak on human rights issues two months after riots erupted in the
Tibetan capital Lhasa, sparking a Chinese crackdown that has been
widely condemned. He was also due to meet the speaker of parliament
Norbert Lammert and two state premiers.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting trouble ahead of the
Beijing Olympics in August - an allegation rejected by the Buddhist
cleric, who fled to India after a failed anti-Beijing uprising in his
homeland in 1959.

Berlin has pushed for direct dialogue between the Chinese government
and Tibetan cultural and religious representatives.

Wieczorek-Zeul's spokesman said the German government welcomed talks
this month between China and envoys of the Tibetan leader to try to
defuse tensions in the aftermath of the violence in Lhasa as "a step
in the right direction."

"You can expect us to continue pushing for further progress in this
direction," he said.
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