Dalai Lama to meet Blair, but no politics

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The Independent Online
THE DALAI LAMA arrived in Britain yesterday and will meet Tony Blair over the weekend - but only on the condition that what the Foreign Office describes as a "religious mediator" is present.

The Rt Rev Richard Llewellin, the Bishop at Lambeth, will represent the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is abroad.

Campaigners for Tibet are disappointed Mr Blair has refused to meet the Dalai Lama alone, particularly given that President Clinton did so in the White House last November. The President was prepared to discuss politics with the head of the Tibetan government in exile - despite President Jiang Zemin's scheduled visit to the US shortly afterwards.

Alison Reynolds, director of the Free Tibet Campaign, said that if Mr Blair has an ethical foreign policy he should hold talks on how best to resolve China's occupation of Tibet. "Blair is prepared to stick his head way above the parapet with Kosovo, but he's not prepared to risk offending the Chinese by treating the Dalai Lama as anything but a spiritual figure," Ms Reynolds.

Lord Weatherill, the former speaker of the House of Commons and patron of the All-Party Parliamentary Group For Tibet, said: "I'm delighted His Holiness is meeting the Prime Minister. I hope on this occasion he will have an opportunity to explain the situation in Tibet and the abuse of human rights, which are quite as bad, if not worse, as those in Kosovo."

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister, as on previous occasions with prime ministers, will be receiving the Dalai Lama in a spiritual capacity. There will be senior members of the Church of England present."

This is the Dalai Lama's ninth visit to Britain. During the six-day visit, he will deliver teachings on the Tibetan Buddhist writings, Transforming the Mind, at Wembley and on Monday night he is launching his book, Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for the New Millennium at the Royal Albert Hall.

On Tuesday, he will deliver the tenth Lambeth Interfaith Lecture entitled: "Towards a Peaceful World - the Role of Religious Communities".

He will also consecrate an eight-foot statue of Buddha at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, in south London, and open a Tibetan peace garden next to the Imperial War Museum.