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Bush to honour Dalai Lama

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : In a gesture likely to anger China, US President George W. Bush is scheduled to meet the Dalai Lama Oct 17 and honour him at a public event for the first time.

Bush will bestow the Congressional Gold Medal, the country’s highest civilian honour, on the Tibetan leader in front of the Capitol building in Washington.

He has met the Buddhist Nobel Prize winner earlier but always in the White House.

Following the ceremony, the Dalai Lama will speak. Thousands of Tibetans and friends of Tibet are expected to gather for the event.

The bill to award the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal was passed by Congress in September last year.

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, a known supporter of the Tibet cause who will preside the event, said: “The US must continue to be committed to meeting the challenge that Tibet makes to the conscience of the world.”

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the US-based special envoy of the Dalai Lama, has been quoted on the website of the ‘Office of Tibet’ New York as saying: “Honouring His Holiness with the Congressional Gold Medal is a strong endorsement of his tireless commitment to enhancing the principles of non-violence, religious harmony, tolerance, and promoting a sense of universal responsibility.”

China reacts angrily to any recognition given to the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of being a separatist.

Last week, China criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel after she met the Dalai Lama and backed his call for more cultural autonomy for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama is giving public talks and holding teachings in the US, starting with New York, from Oct 9 to Oct 27.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959. His government-in-exile, which is not recognised by any country, is based in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala. India is also home to some 100,000 Tibetans.