Irish minister stands by his Tibet remarks

Other News Materials 14 April 2008 14:52 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Ireland's Environment Minister John Gormley stands over comments on Tibet he made at his party conference which provoked the Chinese ambassador to Ireland to walk out of the conference, reports said Monday.

On Saturday Green Party leader Gormley in his keynote speech to his party's annual convention accused China of abusing human rights in Tibet and called on Beijing to hold talks with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

The comments caused the ambassador to Ireland, Liu Biwei, to walk out of the conference. Speaking through an interpreter, the ambassador told reporters that Gormley's words were "not acceptable and I lodge my strong protests. So I must leave to show my strong protests."

Gormley told the Irish Independent on Monday that he would not be apologising for the remarks.

Ireland's Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern described the incident as "overblown" and said he didn't think it would damage trade between Ireland and China, which is valued at 5.5 billion euros (8.7 billion dollars) per year.

Ahern said the problem may have been that Gormley referred to Tibet as a "country," in what the foreign minister said was a "slip of the tongue." He said Gormley's call for dialogue reflects Irish government policy.