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Dalai Lama Calls for Dialogue Ahead of Sarkozy Meeting

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama called for a "century of dialogue" and disarmament in Poland Saturday, Dec. 6, hours before a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy which has enraged China.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama's planned meeting with Sarkozy has enraged China

The spiritual leader called for dialogue and stressed interdependence and cooperation while praising Poland's spirit in face of hardship during celebrations in Gdansk that marked the 25th anniversary of Lech Walesa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

He said while Poland's interest depended on Europe, it was also a case that "Europe's interest depends on the rest of the world."

The Dalai Lama praised Walesa's Solidarity movement, which in the 1980s lead strikes in the Gdansk's shipyards that helped peacefully topple the communist regime in Poland. He said the movement worked with "courage and determination" under "difficult circumstances."

"Poland is a people who experience many difficult periods, however no matter what difficulties, the Polish people always keep your spirit, your determination," the Dalai Lama told the gathering of world leaders in northern Poland. "I admire Polish people ... a lot of atrocities, a lot of difficulties, but you never lost your hope, your determination."

The anniversary celebrations of his Nobel Peace Prize included leaders like French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Nobel Peace Prize laureates like South Africa's FW de Klerk and Israel's Shimon Peres.

The Dalai Lama also called for "external disarmament," and said demilitarization must begin with "inner peace" and letting go of fear and suspicion.

Sarkozy arrived in Gdansk with firm plans to meet the Dalai Lama, a move that has China fuming.

Sarkozy's meeting leads to scrapped EU-China summit

Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, chats with French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy and Hu Jintao have done much business recently

As current holder of the European Union's six-month rotating presidency, the French leader's decision to engage with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has so far seen Beijing retaliate by scrapping a China-EU summit in France earlier this week.

It also warned multi-billion-dollar trade deals between China and France were in jeopardy should the meeting go ahead.

"We have not noticed any kind of start of a boycott of our products," a French presidential official told reporters Saturday, emphasizing that France and China needed each other during a period of economic crisis.

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

Asked Friday in the northern Polish city whether he thought the French president might cancel the meeting with him, as has happened twice in the past, the Dalai Lama said: "Wait until tomorrow. I don't know."

France calls for restraint over trade threats

Bernard Kouchner

Kouchner says sanctions at this time would be unfair

Commenting on whether EU-China relations and trade could suffer over his planned meeting with Sarkozy the Dalai Lama remarked: "China also needs Europe."

"The original initiative of some pressure, sometimes is not followed by action," he said.

France is digging in its heels, saying the meeting will go ahead and calling for economic ties to be spared from retribution, especially during the financial crisis.

"We cannot have France's conduct dictated to, even by our friends," said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

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.

China argues he is actually 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 Friday.

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.

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