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Dalai Lama says time to leave Afghanistan

October 5, 2009

By BILL KAUFMANN, SUN MEDIA
Edmonton Sun - 2nd October 2009

CALGARY -- Canada's military mission in Afghanistan was met with skepticism
from the Dalai Lama yesterday in Calgary.

And the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet predicted he'll one day return to
the homeland he fled 50 years ago.

Following a question-and- answer session with an audience of 1,200 at the
Telus Convention Centre, the 74-year-old Buddhist monk said the jury is
still out on NATO's campaign in Afghanistan.

But he said countries like Canada should leave Afghanistan's fate to its own
people following efforts that so far have failed.

"Your government solving man-made problems using force is a mistake -- it's
up to the Afghan people," said the Dalai Lama, who finished a two-day visit
to the city as part of the University of Calgary-organized NOW conference.

"Military forces the hard-liners to become harder and civilian casualties
has the other side getting more sympathy from the local people."

The Tibetan asked how many troops Canada has in Aghanistan and was told
2,500.

He also asked if Calgary hosted a military industry and gave his approval
when told weapons communications systems were manufactured here.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama said rapid changes to Chinese attitudes towards
him and Tibetan autonomy give him confidence he'll return to his Himalayan
homeland.

But he said the Chinese government's hardline reaction to violent unrest in
Tibet last March was a setback.

"We believe if you look at it locally it's hopeless, but in the wider
perspective, things are really changing," he said.

Chinese intellectuals and writers close to the Beijing leaders, he said,
have recently made contact with him, adding the push for autonomy by various
regions claimed by China is irrepressible.

"Any sensible Chinese will know the reality of the situation," he said.

When asked about the ethics of Alberta's oilsands, the Dalai Lama said
technology can be used to balance commerce with the environment. But if it
comes to a choice, "we have to choose losing money," he said.

He also made light of recent pro-China demonstrations against him in Europe,
calling them "unenthusiastic" and contrived by Beijing.
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