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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama in France to get Paris honour

June 8, 2009

PARIS 6 June 2009 (AFP) — Tibetan exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, arrived in Paris Saturday on the latest leg of a European tour that threatens fresh damage to France's relations with China.


The Dalai Lama is in France to be named an honorary citizen of Paris. He has insisted it is not political even though China has lashed out at the European countries that have received the 73-year-old Buddhist leader this week.


France and China have only just patched up relations following Beijing's anger over President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama in December and Beijing has already voiced its opposition to this trip.


French officials have said it is a coincidence that the Dalai Lama is visiting at the same time as US President Barack Obama, and there are no plans for the Tibet's exiled spiritual leader to meet top political representatives.


"Once more I'm very happy to come to France. The main reason of my visit is to receive the honour citizen of Paris," the Dalai Lama told reporters on arrival, calling it "a great honour".


The Dalai Lama added that "it's an opportunity to meet my old friends among politicians, businessmen, intellectuals and ordinary people."


Speaking about events in Tibet, he said: "Since March 2008 I have the feeling that a very old nation and its heritage and culture have received a death sentence."


Unrest in Tibet erupted on March 14 last year after four days of peaceful protests against Chinese rule.


The Tibetan government-in-exile says 203 Tibetans were killed and about 1,000 hurt in China's crackdown. Beijing insists that only one Tibetan was killed and has in turn accused the "rioters" of killing 21 people.


The Dalai Lama will meet members of the Tibetan community in France and give a public lecture on the theme of secular ethics in a sports stadium during his visit.


He kicked off the latest European tour in Denmark last Friday and has also visited Iceland and Poland.

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