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Dalai Lama Satisfied with Tibetans' Preference to Continue with Autonomy Push


The Dalai Lama says he is pleased Tibetan leaders in exile have agreed to continue to pursue what is called the "middle way" of seeking greater autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from China. But the Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters Sunday it is premature to immediately decide that no further formal discussions should be held with the Chinese government. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Dharamsala, India.

The Dalai Lama is warning of unspecified dangers if Tibetan political leaders in exile are not careful in their strategy towards China.

The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke to followers in the Indian town of Dharamsala a day after the conclusion of an unprecedented six-day meeting of nearly 600 Tibetans leaders from around the world.

The conference expressed a preference to continue the push for meaningful autonomy, rather than outright independence from China. But delegates also acknowledged the growing number of people inside Tibet and in the diaspora who prefer independence.

Speaking to reporters at the Namgyal Monastery after his speech, the Dalai Lama expressed satisfaction the Tibetan delegates heeded his call to clearly express their opinions, regardless of his perceived preferences.

"I think (it was a) very, very frank discussion, some cases heated discussion. So I'm satisfied," he said. "You see they expressed fully what they believe without sort of hesitation, without fear."

The Dalai Lama called the meeting in this Indian mountain town where he has lived since fleeing Tibet following a failed rebellion in 1959. China invaded Tibet in 1950 and contends the region has historically been an integral part of the country.

The conference also made clear Tibetan impatience with the hardening stance of the Chinese in the recent formal talks in Beijing.

Leaders of the Tibetan exile government on Saturday said no further talks requesting autonomy should be held for the time being. But the Dalai Lama says it is too soon to declare such a decision.

"Wait another month. Then we'll decide," he said.

The spiritual leader added he is eager to let Tibet's foreign supporters have their say at a conference set to be held in New Delhi at the end of the week. There is also speculation that a special session of the parliament in exile will be called shortly. It is not scheduled to meet again until next March.

The Dalai Lama also told reporters that while political leadership is now in the hands of the elected Kalon Tripa or prime minister and the parliament, he has a "moral responsibility" to continue as spiritual leader until his death.

He again hinted at the possibility of choosing his successor while he is still alive, instead of a reincarnate being selected after his passing. He spoke at length about the merits of a "young girl" possibly being chosen as the next Dalai Lama, commenting that women have "more or less" achieved equality with men but are frequently more compassionate.

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