Merkel to meet with Dalai Lama

AFP , BERLIN

Sun, Sep 16, 2007 - Page 1

The German government announced on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, causing China to summon the German ambassador in Beijing to discuss the matter.

After its announcement earlier in the day, a German foreign ministry spokesman confirmed a report due to appear in tomorrow's edition of the Handelsblatt business daily that Ambassador Michael Schaefer had been called to a meeting with Chinese authorities to discuss Merkel's decision to grant the Dalai Lama an unprecedented meeting.

The German government's chief spokesman, Ulrich Wilhelm, said that Merkel will receive the spiritual leader at the chancellery in Berlin on Sept. 23.

It will mark the first time that the Dalai Lama has been received there, he told reporters.

Asked if the visit would offend China, which Merkel visited last month, Wilhelm had said Beijing was aware of Berlin's position on Tibet.

"Human rights issues related to Tibet is an issue that we always bring up with the Chinese side, especially during the bilateral German-Chinese human rights dialogue, but also in the EU-China human rights talks," he said.

The Handelsblatt report also states that China has repeatedly pressed Germany to refuse the Dalai Lama permission to enter the country, but that Berlin has rejected the demand.

The Dalai Lama, whose worldly name is Tenzin Gyatso, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his non-violent campaign against Chinese rule in Tibet.

He makes frequent visits to Europe to promote Tibet's cause.

In recent years, he has backed off from pushing for Tibetan independence, campaigning instead for "genuine autonomy."