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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama's five-day visit to Germany will have few meetings with top-level officials

May 15, 2008

The Associated Press
May 14, 2008

FRANKFURT, Germany: The last time the Dalai Lama visited Germany, his
reception by Chancellor Angela Merkel sent German-Chinese relations
into a chill.

His visit starting Thursday notably includes no plans for meeting
with Merkel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and President
Horst Koehler.

The Tibetan spiritual leader will spend five days in Germany on a
speaking tour peppered with meetings with politicians. He arrives in
Frankfurt with plans to give four lectures in Nuremberg, Bamberg,
Bochum and Moenchengladbach, and a final speech Monday in front of
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate will also meet two state
governors from Merkel's conservative party ? Hesse's Roland Koch and
North Rhine-Westphalia's Juergen Ruettgers ? as well as Norbert
Lammert, president of Germany's parliament.

But with Merkel away on a trip to Latin America, there will be no
reprise of September's meeting at the chancellery ? an encounter that
underlined her willingness to publicly address awkward issues with
Beijing, exposed strains in her left-right governing coalition and
infuriated Beijing, which canceled several meetings between officials.

Steinmeier, a center-left Social Democrat, lamented the chill in relations.

His decision not to meet the Dalai Lama during this week's trip has
drawn criticism from Merkel's party.

But Steinmeier's spokesman pointed Wednesday to the minister's
efforts to press China to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama's
representatives after violence erupted in Tibet earlier this year.

"What is important to how we act is what is of concrete use to people
in Tibet," said the spokesman, Andreas Peschke.

The president's office cited scheduling conflicts as the reason
Koehler would not be meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Koch, of Merkel's party, said his meeting with the Dalai Lama was
important, telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper over the weekend
that a failure to do so could give China the impression that "human
rights is not a central issue for the German government."

Merkel spokesman Thomas Steg dismissed suggestions that the
government was avoiding the visit, saying Development Minister
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul would meet the Dalai Lama on Monday.

However, the meeting likely will take place "not at the ministry,"
said the minister's spokesman, Markus Weidling.

China ? which claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries ?
routinely protests meetings between foreign governments and the Dalai
Lama. China has ruled the Himalayan region with a heavy hand since
its communist-led forces invaded in 1959.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, says he wants "real
autonomy" for Tibet, not independence.

China recently held informal talks with the Dalai Lama's
representatives ? after coming under international pressure following
violent protests in Tibet.

The protests had started in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on the March
10th anniversary of a failed uprising 49 years ago. They turned
violent four days later, touching off demonstrations among Tibetans
in three neighboring provinces.

The Dalai Lama was upbeat about the prospects for more formal talks,
according to an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel last week,
but he acknowledged that "big difficulties" had been revealed in the
meeting already held.
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