Dalia Lama plays down rumours of ill health on Italy trip


Rome: The Dalai Lama Wednesday denied reports that he is suffering from cancer, but admitted that his eventual passing would represent a blow for the Tibetan cause.

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“The Tibetan people’s respect towards me is very strong and my death would be a setback,” the exiled Buddhist spiritual leader said whilst in Italy on a trip.

“China is more concerned about my successor, of course for political rather than religious reasons,” the Dalai Lama added.

However, he stressed that Buddhism-rooted Tibetan culture has continued its “pure lineage,” for “thousands of years,” and would continue to do so after him.

The Dalai Lama was speaking during a sometimes heated press conference, held in a hall of a Rome building housing the Italian lower house of parliament Chamber of Deputies.

Doctors were impressed by the “very quick” recovery he had made from gall-bladder surgery in 2008, he said.

At one point the Dalai Lama invited a Chinese photojournalist to take a picture of him so that it could be shown in China and Tibet – where he said the cancer rumours were being spread.

Later the Dalai Lama said Beijing’s communist authorities had fed Chinese people propaganda falsely accusing him of trying to arrange a disruption of the Olympic torch relay marathon, ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The remark prompted an angry outburst from another Chinese journalist.

“You are saying that Chinese people as stupid because they believe everything the government tells them,” the journalist said.

“I only have respect for the Chinese people,” the Dalai Lama replied.

Earlier the Dalai Lama held talks with Chamber of Deputies speaker Gianfranco Fini.

At the news conference he was asked if he felt offended that no members of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government would meet with him during his two-day visit to Rome.

“I don’t want to create any embarrassment or inconvenience wherever I go,” he replied.

He also repeated remarks he made on Tuesday in which he welcomed US President Barack Obama’s appeal this week to Chinese leaders to hold talks with the Dalai Lama over the situation in Tibet.

However, he again stressed “limits” existed beyond which the US is not able express itself on the Tibetan issue.