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Germany

Report: Germany's Merkel Will Meet Dalai Lama Again

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to meet the Dalai Lama again despite China's anger over a previous meeting, a German newspaper said Saturday. Merkel also urged China to overcome it "fear" of dialogue.

Merkel with the Dalai Lama

This meeting last September angered Beijing immensely

Merkel, who met Tibet's spiritual leader in exile last September, will be in Latin America during his next visit to Germany May 16-20 when he will meet lower house speaker Norbert Lammert.

"But I will most certainly meet the Dalai Lama at a later date," she told the Sunday edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine in an article released in advance.

"My receiving the Dalai Lama and China's behavior towards him are two entirely separate things," she was quoted as saying.

"But both guide the way in which we behave in matters of respect or non-respect of human rights, and here Germany's attitude is explicit, including receiving the Dalai Lama," Merkel added.

Bitter reaction to last visit

Merkel has been more vocal than her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder in criticising the human rights records of Russia and China.

Merkel with the Dalai Lama

Merkel wanted the meeting to underline her willingness to address human rights issues

Her last meeting with the Dalai Lama precipitated a crisis in relations between Beijing and Germany, China's biggest trading partner in Europe.

It was only in January during a visit here by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier could speak of a return to normality.

Merkel has rejected an Olympics boycott, saying this would only penalize athletes who plan to compete and not help Tibetans. Her spokesman said she would not attend the opening in Beijing in August, but stressed that this had never been planned.

Calls for dialogue

Last month Merkel called for peaceful and direct dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama over the current unrest in Tibet.

"A lasting solution to the Tibet question can perhaps only be found through a peaceful and direct dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama," said her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm.

Chinese hurdler Lie Xiang holds the Olympic Torch in Beijing

The Olympic Torch ceremony in Beijing

In her comments in the newspaper interview, Merkel said she hoped the Olympic Games this summer become a "games of dialogue" and that "China overcomes its fear of this."

Criticism of style

Merkel faced intense criticism from her Christian Democrats' partners in the ruling coalition, the Social Democrats, for her decision to receive the Dalai Lama last September.

Both Schroeder, and Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, said the meeting was a mistake and may have damaged Germany's interests.

Robert Mugabe and Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel has sharply criticized Zimbabwean President Mugabe for human rights violations

Merkel has been more forceful than her predecessors with regards to rights. She has pressed China, Russia and Zimbabwe on the issue. In her weekly Internet podcast, the chancellor said she would address the Council of Europe on human rights next week.

She said rights throughout the world were "an important pillar" of Berlin's policy alongside advancing Germany's own interests. Human rights and economic relationships were not mutually exclusive, she said, adding: "In my opinion, they have to fit together.

Merkel has remained unapologetic in the face of any criticism of the new approach.

"Human rights policy and representing our economic interests all over the world are for us two sides of the same coin," she said in January.

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