Australian PM shuns meeting with Dalai Lama

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The Independent Online

The Australian Prime Minister, refused to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to Parliament House yesterday, but insisted the snub had nothing to do with Chinese pressure to shun the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

"I make my own decisions and the government makes its own decisions about meetings that we hold," Julia Gillard said.

The Dalai Lama seemed to know little about Ms Gillard – including her gender. "If your Prime Minister has some kind of spiritual interest, then of course, my meeting would be useful, otherwise I have nothing to ask him," he said at a news conference.

Australia has extensive trade ties with China, which regardsthe Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist who wants Tibet to split from the country. A low-key 2008 meeting between him and Australia's acting prime minister brought a rebuke from Beijing.

Some MPs accused Ms Gillard of being out of step with Australia's most important defence ally, the United States, where the Dalai Lama has met President Barack Obama.