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Dalai Lama Visits France During Beijing Olympics

The Dalai Lama is in Paris for a 12-day visit that coincides with the ongoing Olympic Games in Beijing. Lisa Bryant reports from the French capital there are no plans for the Tibetan spiritual leader to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Dalai Lama is in Paris for an official visit that begins Tuesday when he blesses a Buddhist temple in the suburb of Evry. His long-planned trip to France is being cast as largely private, with visits to religious temples and six days of teaching in the city of Nantes, in western France.

The only political aspects to his trip are a meeting Wednesday with several hundred French lawmakers, and the inauguration of a temple on August 22 that French first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy is expected to attend.

But there is no meeting planned between the Dalai Lama and President Nicolas Sarkozy, apparently by mutual consent. China had warned of serious consequences should there be a meeting between the two, which would have coincided with the Olympic Games in Beijing. But Mr. Sarkozy has said he hopes to meet with the Dalai Lama at the end of the year.

Buddhism is extremely popular in France. While French account for only a small slice of the country's estimated 600,000 buddhists, experts estimate about five million French reportedly feel close to the spiritual movement.

Stephane Arguillere, a religious expert at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris, told Radio France International that French Buddhists are young and come from diverse backgrounds. He says they really want to learn about the religion.

The largest pagoda in Europe is being constructed in Evry, outside Paris, which the Dalai Lama is expected to inaugurate Tuesday.