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French FM Kouchner cancels meeting with Dalai Lama: report

August 19, 2008

AFP
August 18, 2008

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner cannot meet the Dalai Lama
during his trip to France because he is too busy dealing with the
Georgian crisis, he said in a newspaper interview published Sunday.

"On the 20th, I can't," Kouchner was quoted as saying by the Journal
du Dimanche, adding that "my timetable has been thrown into disarray
by the Georgian crisis."

The Dalai Lama's aide Mathieu Ricard had said Thursday that the
meeting -- which was not officially confirmed by the French
government -- would take place next Wednesday, August 20, in the
western French city of Nantes.

Kouchner told the Journal du Dimanche he had telephoned the exiled
Tibetan spiritual leader this week, adding: "I always see my friend
the Dalai Lama when he is in France."

"I hope to be able to meet him," he said, but added that he was
extremely busy because of the conflict in Georgia, where France has
brokered a peace deal between Moscow and Tbilisi.

The Dalai Lama began a 12-day visit to France on Monday, which
stirred tensions with China, currently hosting the Olympics.

Tentative plans for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy
were dropped, at the Dalai Lama's request, to avoid angering China
and setting back talks between Tibetan and Chinese parties, Sarkozy's
office and members of the Buddhist leader's entourage said.

But French commentators suggested that Paris persuaded the Dalai Lama
not to request a meeting to avoid straining its relations with Beijing.

Ruling party deputy Lionnel Luca, who heads a 250-strong French
parliamentary study group on Tibet, said it was "shameful" that the
Nobel peace laureate should be denied a red carpet welcome.

On Wednesday the Dalai Lama had a closed-door meeting in the Senate
with a group of deputies.

On Saturday he met the unsuccessful Socialist candidate in last
year's presidential elections, Segolene Royal.
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