Dalai Lama to meet acting prime minister in Australia
The Dalai Lama arrived in Australia Wednesday on the second leg of a five-country world tour which has brought protests from Beijing, but will not be met by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, officials said.
Rudd is on a trip to Japan and Indonesia and his spokesman said he would not be back in time to meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is also out of the country and the Dalai Lama will be met by Immigration Minister Chris Evans, who will be acting prime minister, and by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.
"This reflects the Dalai Lama's status as an international religious leader and the significant domestic interest in the Dalai Lama's visit, including from the Tibetan immigrant community in Australia," a government spokesperson said.
The Dalai Lama visited Britain last month, where he was met by Prime Minister Gordon Brown despite strong objections from Beijing.
China accuses him of fomenting secessionist unrest in Tibet, where a clampdown on dissent in March brought international criticism of Beijing's policies in the Himalayan region.
The Australia Tibet Council support group said it was disappointed that Rudd would not meet the Dalai Lama but was pleased that the foreign minister would hold talks with the visiting monk.
"We're more focused on what comes out of the meeting rather than who he meets," spokesman Paul Bourke told AFP .
"We think really some statement needs to come from the meeting between the foreign minister and the Dalai Lama about moving the Tibet-China dialogue forward.
Spurred by international pressure over the unrest in Tibet, Chinese officials met the Dalai Lama's envoys in early May for a day of talks which led to an agreement to restart formal discussions that broke off last year.
Rudd, who met the Dalai Lama last year while he was still in opposition, publicly raised concerns over human rights issues in Tibet during a visit to Beijing in April and urged the Chinese leadership to meet the Tibetan.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is due to head to the United States in July, France in August and Switzerland in October.