Dalai Lama Begins Visit To France

August 13th 2008

Monks attend a ceremony presided by Tibetan spiritual guide, the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama gave a talk on peace and nonviolence at the temple in Paris

Paris, France, 12 August 2008 (BBC News) - The Dalai Lama has begun a 12-day visit to France by blessing a Buddhist institute on the edge of Paris.

The exiled spiritual Tibetan leader will spend most of the duration of the Olympics in France.

Plans to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy were dropped, though the Dalai Lama will meet lawmakers on Wednesday.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of stirring up unrest in Tibet and warned Mr Sarkozy of "serious consequences" if he met him.

Members of the Buddhist leader's entourage said any plans for a meeting were shelved to avoid damage to talks between Tibetan and Chinese parties, according to AFP.

The French president is trying to repair ties with China, damaged by his initial threat to boycott the opening of the Olympic Games and a series of pro-Tibet protests as the torch passed through the French capital.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting unrest in Tibet but last week the 1989 Nobel peace prize-winner sent a message offering good wishes to the Chinese people ahead of the games.

He repeated his message on Tuesday. "I fully support the Olympics in China... the People's Republic of China deserves to play host to the games," the Dalai Lama said as he left the Yiga Tcheudzine temple in Veneux-les-Sablons, south of Paris.

Later he gave a talk at a vast Vietnamese pagoda still under construction in Evry, south of Paris. He made no mention of Tibet.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 amid an uprising against the Chinese military, has said he only wants limited autonomy for his homeland, but China accuses him of wanting independence for Tibet.

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