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Gillard refuses to meet Dalai Lama

world Updated: Jun 13, 2011 22:30 IST

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will not meet with the visiting Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to avoid a diplomatic row with China.

"The prime minister will not meet with the Dalai Lama on this visit to Australia," Gillard's spokesman said on Monday.

"Australian prime ministers have not met the Dalai Lama on every occasion he has visited Australia. Given the frequency of his travel to Australia, the government believes the current arrangements are appropriate," he was quoted as saying by the AAP.

However, he said, a member of the government would meet privately with the 75-year-old Buddhist leader, who recently gave up his political authority over Tibetans, but remains their spiritual leader.

China is opposed to foreign governments or leaders having any interaction with the Dalai Lama, who has been accused by Beijing of trying to split the nation.

The Dalai Lama, who arrived in Melbourne on June 9 for an 11-day tour of Australia to give a series of lectures on Tibetan Buddhism and his life, will visit Canberra on Tuesday.

According to the report, opposition Leader Tony Abbott confirmed last week he would meet with the Dalai Lama. It said that the 1989 Noble laureate will also meet with Greens Party Leader Bob Brown, who was quoted as saying he was looking forward to the visit.

"Too often politics is a spiritually dead zone," Brown said.

"It needs a good dose of long-sighted compassion and who better than Tibet's Nobel peace prize winner to provide it," he said.

Members of Gillard's own government and pro-Tibetan activists also urged Gillard to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader but to avail. The Australian Tibet Council and Labour MP Michael Danby have also been lobbying Gillard to meet the respected Buddhist leader.

Brown said that he had been working hard to urge Gillard to meet Dalai Lama.

"There will be a great feeling of pleasure around Australia if she takes ten minutes off to do just that," the leader of the Greens Party underlined.

"If it is good enough to meet the overseas boss of Xstrata, it is good enough for our prime minister to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama," he said.

Brown said that Gillard will be "on hugely popular ground with Australians" if she meets the Tibetan spiritual leader when he visits Canberra on June 14.

"Australians will want the Prime Minister to meet the Dalai Lama at Parliament House," he said, while noting US President Barack Obama met him in the White House.

John Howard, the Conservative Party Prime Minister, was the last Australian leader to meet the Dalai Lama in 2007.