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Dalai Lama talks risk EU trade
Beijing retaliates by cancelling China-EU summit as Nicolas Sarkozy meets Dalai Lama.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2008 21:22 GMT
The Dalai Lama has said the Tibet issue can be solved once China becomes a more 'open' country [AFP]

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has met the Dalai Lama in the Polish city of Gdansk at a gathering of Nobel laureates. 

Beijing, angry at the meeting, retaliated on Saturday by cancelling a forthcoming China-EU summit in France.

It had also warned that multi-billion-dollar trade deals with France were in jeopardy as Sarkozy prepared to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader.

After the meeting, Sarkozy said: "The Dalai Lama confirmed what I already knew: that he will not demand independence for Tibet and I told him how important I thought it was to pursue dialogue with the Chinese authorities."

"The Dalai Lama also told me of his concerns over Tibet."

Sarkozy has become the only European head of state to meet the Dalai Lama while holding the EU's rotating presidency.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, has sought "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet since he fled his homeland following a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region.
  
Asked on Friday in the northern Polish city whether he thought Sarkozy might cancel the meeting with him, as has happened twice in the past, the Dalai Lama said: "Wait until tomorrow. I don't know."

Boycott calls
  
Commenting on whether EU-China relations and trade could suffer over the meeting with Sarkozy, the Dalai Lama said: "China also needs Europe."
  
"The original initiative of some pressure, sometimes is not followed by action," he said.
  
France had insisted the meeting would be held and called for economic ties to be spared from retribution, especially during the financial crisis.
  
Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister, said: "We cannot have France's conduct dictated to, even by our friends."

Jonathan Fenby, a London-based journalist who writes about China, told Al Jazeera there were hopes that after the riots in Tibet in March some kind of accommodation would be worked out between Beijing and the Dalai Lama.

But China has taken a "tough stance and those talks, in fact, are at an end", Fenby said.

"We cannot have France's conduct dictated to, even by our friends"
Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister

"The EU is now China's biggest single trading partner. If the Chinese start to talk of a boycot of French goods ... and the Europeans react, you could have a rather nasty situation."

Momentum has grown among Chinese internet users, angry at the meeting, for a boycott of French products.

"I am using my real name to swear to the French: I am going to boycott French goods for my whole life. I will never use French brands or any product made in France," said one internet poster, who identified himself as Yan Zhongjie.

Liu Jianchao, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on Thursday that Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama would cause "a lot of dissatisfaction" with the Chinese people, but he also called on the public to be "calm and rational".

Although there is a large French presence in China, including companies such as hypermarket chain Carrefour, China has a trade surplus with the European nation and antagonising key partners during a global slowdown could be risky.

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, met the Dalai Lama on Saturday in Gdansk, where as a past recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize he had been invited to ceremonies marking 25 years since Lech Walesa, Poland's anti-communist solidarity icon, received the award.
  
The former union leader is regarded as a key figure in the peaceful collapse of communism in Poland in 1989.

The Dalai Lama, now 73, was awarded a Nobel Peace prize the same year.
  
Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, attended Saturday's ceremonies in Gdansk.

'Totally baseless'
   
China has argued that the Dalai Lama is seeking full independence, something he on Friday called a "totally baseless" claim.
  
"When China becomes more democratic, with freedom of speech, with rule of law and particularly with freedom of the press ...  once China becomes an open, modern society, then the Tibet issue, I  think within a few days, can be solved," the Dalai Lama said.
  
Addressing the European parliament in Brussels on Thursday, he said China lacked the moral authority to be a true superpower.
  
"The Dalai Lama will raise human rights issues and above all the very urgent situation of Tibet ... where the situation nearly resembles that of martial law," during the Saturday afternoon meeting with Sarkozy, the head of France's Tibetan community Wangpo Bashi told radio France-Info Saturday.
  
The meeting is "a very strong signal" for Tibetans, he added.

Source:
Al Jazeera and gencies
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