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Dalai Lama "is not a call girl", says Canada's PM

December 24, 2007

Thu Dec 20, 2007

OTTAWA (Reuters) - When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to
explain in a year-end interview why he'd met the Dalai Lama in his
Ottawa office, it was clear he wanted to show respect for the exiled
Tibetan leader.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite come out that way.

"I met the Dalai Lama in my office but I meet everyone in my office. I
don't know why I would sneak off to a hotel room just to meet the Dalai
Lama. You know, he's not a call girl," Harper told OMNI television.

He quickly added: "As I say, he's a respected international spiritual
leader."

China condemns the Dalai Lama as a separatist and presses world leaders
to shun him. German Chancellor Angela Merkel met him in September, but
only in private, and last month the Vatican called off a meeting with
the Pope set for December 13.

Harper is a strong critic of China's human rights record and what he
calls the "undemocratic regime" in Beijing.

China condemned Harper for "disgusting conduct" in late October after he
met the Dalai Lama in his parliamentary office with television cameras
and photographers present.

The Dalai Lama -- who fled his predominantly Buddhist homeland in 1959
after a failed uprising against Communist rule -- was granted honorary
Canadian citizenship in June.

Harper's chief spokeswoman did not respond to a query as to whether the
prime minister regretted his choice of words in the interview, which
took place on Tuesday but was embargoed until Thursday.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)
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