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Dalai Lama visits French Buddhist site, pagoda

August 14, 2008

By ANGELA DOLAND
The Associated Press
August 12, 2008

PARIS (AP) - The Dalai Lama, trying to skirt controversy over Tibet
during a 12-day trip to France, opened his visit with blessings at a
Buddhist institute Tuesday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is spending most of the duration of the
Beijing Olympics in France, with only one political event on his
schedule -- closed-door talks Wednesday with French lawmakers.

Although some of his supporters have protested Beijing's hosting of
the Games, the Dalai Lama has sought to ease tensions and sent a
message last week offering prayers and good wishes to the Chinese
people before the Olympics.

His first day of events after arriving Monday was devoted to
religious matters. At a Buddhist institute run by an exiled Tibetan
outside Paris in Veneux Les Sablons, the Dalai Lama offered prayers
and greeted the town's mayor and representatives of other religions.
Later Tuesday he was to head to another suburb, Evry, to bless a
statue of Buddha in a vast pagoda being built by worshippers of
Vietnamese heritage.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided not to meet with the Tibetan
spiritual leader while the Olympics are in progress and his office
says the Dalai Lama did not seek a visit.

Sarkozy's critics and human rights groups have accused the president
of bending to Chinese pressure in order to try to secure major
Chinese contracts for French companies -- especially since Sarkozy
did attend the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing after threatening not to go.

French government spokesman Luc Chatel told France-2 television
Tuesday the Dalai Lama "said himself he thinks that it isn't
necessarily the right moment, given the Olympic Games, for a meeting
with the president", and that he and Sarkozy "jointly decided" to
meet later this year.

Even some in Sarkozy's own UMP party, however, say the government is
being too cautious about angering China.

Lionnel Luca, a UMP lawmaker, told France Inter radio the government
engaged in "self-censorship" by keeping the Senate meeting behind closed doors.

"Our country must surely be occupied by Chinese troops because we are
so afraid of displeasing (China)," he added.

It will be difficult for the Dalai Lama to avoid the subject of Tibet
entirely in France, especially at a news conference Wednesday.

France has many pro-Tibetan and free speech activists who protested
in the streets as the Olympic flame passed through Paris in April.

During his stay, the Dalai Lama will hold a five-day teaching
conference in Nantes, in western France. French first lady Carla
Bruni-Sarkozy will also accompany him to the inauguration of a temple
in southern France before his trip ends Aug. 23.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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