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Merkel ready to meet Dalai Lama again

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Merkel ready to meet Dalai Lama again
Merkel last met the Dalai Lama in September. Photo: DPA
16:07 CEST+02:00
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she was ready to meet the Dalai Lama again despite the trouble her last meeting with him caused for German-Chinese relations.

"I believe that if I've already met him once, I will do so again," she told a press conference in Oslo, Norway.

She said she would be unable to meet Tibet's exiled spiritual leader during his forthcoming visit to Germany next month because she would be away in Latin America.

Merkel, who met Tibet's spiritual leader in exile last September, will be in Latin America during his next visit to Germany May 16-20 when he will meet parliamentary speaker Norbert Lammert.

"But I will most certainly meet the Dalai Lama at a later date," she told the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine in an article released in advance.

"My receiving the Dalai Lama and my dealings with China are two entirely separate things," she was quoted as saying.

"But both are related to how we deal with whether or not human rights are being observed or disregarded, and Germany's position is clear, and receiving the Dalai Lama also belongs to that," Merkel added.

Her last meeting with the Dalai Lama precipitated a crisis in relations with China. It was only in January during a visit here by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier could speak of a return to normality.

Merkel has also clearly rejected a boycott of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, saying this would only penalise the participants. Her spokesman said she would not attend the opening ceremonies in August, but stressed that this had never been planned.

Last month Merkel called for peaceful and direct dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama over the current unrest in Tibet.

"A lasting solution to the Tibet question can perhaps only be found through a peaceful and direct dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama," said her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm.

It was "important that demonstrators, like the police forces, be urged to show moderation and the rights of each be taken into consideration."

Germany backed the Tibetans' rights to religious and cultural autonomy," while "supporting the policy of a single China."

Merkel faced intense criticism from her Christian Democrats' partners in the ruling coalition, the Social Democrats, for her decision to receive the Dalai Lama last September.

Both her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, and Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, said the meeting was a mistake and may have damaged Germany's interests.

Merkel remained unapologetic. "Human rights policy and representing our economic interests all over the world are for us two sides of the same coin," she said in January.

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