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Dalai Lama to begin official programme in France

August 13, 2008

Agence France-Presse
August 12, 2008,

Paris -- The Dalai Lama was set to begin on Tuesday the official
programme of his visit to France with the blessing of a Vietnamese
Buddhist temple outside of Paris.

The 73-year-old Tibetan spiritual guide flew into Paris on Monday for
the 12-day visit at the height of the Beijing Olympics, having
shelved plans to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy for fear of angering China.

He will lead a private ceremony early today at the centre in
Veneux-les-Sablons outside Paris, before beginning his official visit
with the blessing of a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in nearby Evry, in
the presence of 1,500 followers.

The Nobel peace laureate will on Wednesday hold closed-door talks
with French lawmakers, but no government-level meetings are planned.

Instead of Sarkozy, first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy will attend the
inauguration of a temple in Lodeve in southern France Friday next week.

The rest of his visit that runs to August 23, which coincides almost
exactly with the Beijing Games, will be devoted to religious visits
in northwestern Normandy and Brittany and a six-day teaching cycle in
the western city of Nantes.

Planned more than two years ago, the Dalai Lama's French visit
suddenly turned political after a Chinese crackdown on unrest in
Tibet in March that sparked international outrage.

Tentative plans for a meeting with Sarkozy were dropped, at the Dalai
Lama's request, to avoid angering China, Sarkozy's office and members
of the Buddhist leader's entourage said.

Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting unrest in Tibet to
sabotage the Olympics, warned Paris a meeting would have "serious
consequences" for bilateral relations.
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