From: Reuters
Published May 9, 2008 10:47 AM

Dalai Lama says understands anger over Everest torch

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama says he understands why Tibetan exiles were angry that the Olympic torch reached the top of Mount Everest but had advised them against protesting.

Exiled Tibetan officials and rights group argue that taking the flame up Everest on Thursday is in bad taste and not in keeping with the spirit of the Olympics.

China effectively closed off the region over concerns protesters would try to disrupt the assault on Everest, sitting astride the border of the Chinese region of Tibet and Nepal.

But in Nepal, police said they detained 210 pro-Tibet protesters on Thursday.

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"If the times were quiet, I would not get excited about it. But as things are, I understand the protests, of course without supporting them," the Dalai Lama told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine in an interview conducted on May 6 and published on Friday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is due in Germany next week.

The flame's global relay has been dogged by anti-China protests that Beijing says were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, who is branded as a separatist by China.

Tensions have been high since China launched a crackdown against protesters in the Tibetan capital Lhasa in March.

The Dalai Lama, who wants greater autonomy for Tibet, told Der Spiegel he had been worried about border clashes between protesters and armed guards and so advised exiles against holding demonstrations.

"But I can only give advice -- I cannot quash other peoples' views. I hope the Chinese do not use all this as an excuse for a new blood bath," he said in the interview in Dharamsala, home of the Tibetan government in-exile.

Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950 and nine years later the Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed uprising against communist rule.

The Dalai Lama also said he was optimistic that he would be able to return one day. He said he would have no political role, and not even a special spiritual role, if he returned home.

"When the day comes for my return, if a certain amount of pluralism, freedom of speech and rule of law reaches Tibet, I will hand over all my historical authority to the local government," he said, without elaborating.

He said he envisaged remaining in his current role for another 10 or 20 years and he had considered various options for choosing his successor to include the will of Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama starts his tour of Germany next Friday and visits towns in the states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia before visiting to Berlin.

He will not meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel who received the spiritual leader in Berlin last year, a move which soured German relations with Beijing for several months.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers)

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