Jun 03, 2004

Tibet: Dalai Lama worried about moves to lift EU arms embargo on China

The Dalai Lama voiced concern that the European Union could lift its ban on selling arms to China, in comments made days ahead of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre
LONDON : The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, voiced concern that the European Union could lift its ban on selling arms to China, in comments made days ahead of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.

When asked about reports that Britain would join other EU powers France and Germany in urging an end to the arms embargo, he said it was a "delicate question".

He insisted he was "basically always against the arms trade".

The Buddhist leader's measured statement came after a speech to members of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, his last stop on a weeklong trip to Britain hotly condemned by China.

It also comes amid moves by EU heavyweights to let slide their arms embargo slapped on China in June 1989, after its communist rulers stamped out pro-democracy protests on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, and killed hundreds of students and civilians.

Most of the Dalai Lama's points concerned the promotion of universal values and interfaith alliance, as well as autonomy for Tibet. The spiritual leader says he does not seek independence for the Himalayan kingdom, but only cultural freedom and an end to persecution of ethnic Tibetans.

But he also used Iraq to show the dangers posed by the weapons trade.

"Saddam Hussein, the dictator, had not come from the sky", he said, implying that his power emanated from his military capabilities.

"Those weapons used by Saddam Hussein's army were not produced in their own country, but from outside.

"So, therefore, when things become difficult, to blame everything on one person is unfair," the Tibetan leader concluded, in an indirect suggestion that arms traders and builders shared in the blame for Saddam's strength.

The Dalai Lama said the only way to eliminate the risk of similar misuse of force was to stop the arms trade.

He added that China was already militarily "very powerful".

Britain is expected to line up alongside France and Germany in arguing that the restrictions, imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, should be ended, according to a British news report Monday.

In return, London is pushing for Beijing to sign up to an international agreement guaranteeing human rights, according to The Times newspaper.

The Dalai Lama began his trip last Thursday in London, and met with top British figures including Prince Charles and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, although Prime Minister Tony Blair chose not to see him.

The Buddhist leader, respected worldwide for his teachings and principles of non-violence, leads the Tibetan government-in-exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where he fled in 1959.

Beijing occupied Tibet, which it insists has been an integral part of the Chinese nation for centuries, in 1951.

Since then it has been accused of trying to wipe out Tibet's unique Buddhist-based culture through political and religious repression as well as mass ethnic Chinese immigration.