April 18, 2008 / 10:15 PM / in 10 years

Canadian lawmakers assure Dalai Lama of support

ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Reuters) - A group of Canadian lawmakers met with the Dalai Lama on Friday and said they assured the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader of support in finding a just solution to the turmoil besetting his homeland.

<p>The Dalai Lama talks to the media at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan April 18, 2008. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>

“I think his holiness is actually China’s greatest asset,” said Rob Anders, a Conservative member of parliament from Calgary-West, Alberta. “He is asking for just some local rule and autonomy. ... I think that China should wisen up and look at the Dalai Lama as a solution rather than as a threat.”

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating March 14 riots in Lhasa and the unrest that followed in other ethnic Tibetan areas, as part of a bid for Tibetan independence and to ruin the coming Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama, 72, says he wants autonomy for Tibet, not a separate state, and has denied he was behind the unrest, which China says killed 19 people. Exiled Tibetans give a far higher death toll.

The Canadian lawmakers who met with the Dalai Lama for less than an hour in Ann Arbor where he has several appearances planned at the University of Michigan were members of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet.

Consiglio Di Nino, the Ontario Conservative who chairs the group, told reporters “We are here to support and reassure him ... we know these are some difficult times and we just want to reinforce to him that (all his friends) are there to support him and do whatever we can to help him achieve a stated objective of some meaningful dialogue for a just and honorable solution to the Tibetan problem.”

The Dalai Lama emerged with the lawmakers after the meeting and said “I want to express my deep appreciation to all our supporters.”

Anders, who like Di Nino spoke after the meeting, had earlier this week compared the Chinese games to the Nazi-shadowed 1936 Berlin Olympics as both being propaganda exercises.

Asked Friday to elaborate, he said “Well I think the goons that have been employed by China with regard to the torch relay are kind of an example of inappropriate tactics.”

Security guards and demonstrators have clashed at several points as the torch is carried around the world ahead of the summer games.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Communist rule in 1959, eight years after the Chinese military marched in to annex Tibet.

Writing by Michael Conlon in Chicago; editing by Sandra Maler

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