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'Timing not right for Sarkozy meeting'

world Updated: Aug 07, 2008 22:07 IST
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The Dalai Lama's representative in France said on Thursday the month of the Olympics was the wrong time for him to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but that meeting would take place later this year.

Sarkozy's office said Wednesday that he would not meet the Tibetan spiritual leader during his stay in France from August 12-23, explaining that the Dalai Lama had not requested such a meeting.

"The timing is not right, that is all," said Wangpo Bashi, secretary of the Tibet Bureau in Paris, told AFP.

"It is true his holiness did not wish to meet President Sarkozy during his trip of August 2008, since these are the dates of the Olympic Games in Beijing, which his holiness has supported in a consistent and coherent manner."

Bashi said such a meeting could have "penalised ongoing talks between the Tibetan and Chinese parties, as well as the situation in Tibet which remains very tense".

"But his holiness sincerely wishes to meet him and President Sarkozy has the sincere wish and intention to meet" the Dalai Lama, he added. "That has not changed."

"We are working with President Sarkozy's staff to set up a meeting this year, but at a later date," he said.

The president's governing UMP party said later that a meeting was planned "before the end of the year".

European deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit said Sarkozy had told him he "negotiated" a "strategy" with the Dalai Lama to "avoid provoking the Chinese during the Olympic Games".