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China warns Germany over Dalai Lama

world Updated: Sep 18, 2007 18:13 IST

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China on Tuesday warned the German government not to allow a visit by the Dalai Lama, and urged it to consider the "general picture of Sino-German relations".

"We hope the German side will not allow the Dalai Lama to visit Germany," Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said when asked about a meeting planned next Sunday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Jiang said China also hoped that Berlin would not allow the Dalai Lama any contact with German officials.

"Our position on the Dalai Lama is clear," she said. "The Dalai Lama is not a purely religious person. He is someone who engages in the activities of splitting the motherland under the guise of religion.

"We are against any contact with him by any officials in any form."

A German government spokesman said last week that Merkel had invited the Dalai Lama to a "private conversation" Sunday, prompting China's Foreign Affairs Ministry to summon the German ambassador.

The meeting would be the first time an incumbent German chancellor would meet the Dalai Lama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his long campaign against China's rule of Tibet.

German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm described the meeting as one of a series between Merkel and senior religious leaders.

Merkel had previously met the Dalai Lama in 2005 when she was opposition leader.

China has repeatedly appealed to Germany to ban the Dalai Lama from visiting and speaking to Tibetan Buddhists and their supporters in the country. It has failed to curtail visits by the religious leader, who stayed in Hamburg for a week this summer.

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's highest leader, heads a Tibetan "government in exile" based in Dharamsala, India, and remains as popular as ever among ordinary Tibetans.

Most Tibetans support his calls for greater autonomy for Tibet within China although many still favour independence.

Beijing accuses him of promoting separatism, refuses to hold direct dialogues with him, and regularly protests his contacts with world leaders.