China cancels Iran meeting over Dalai Lama

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WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) China pulled out of a meeting this week at which world powers were to discuss further action against Iran in protest against the US Congress' plan to honor the Dalai Lama, the State Department said today.

The meeting in Berlin on Wednesday on the showdown with Iran over its nuclear program has been postponed, probably until next week, said a State Department official, who spoke on condition he not be named.

The Berlin meeting had been scheduled on the same day as the US Congress is set to honor the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist spiritual leader whom China shuns as a Tibetan separatist.

''They had indigestion over the presence of certain spiritual leaders (in the United States) and an event with Congress,'' said the official, who spoke on condition he was not named. ''It is extraneous to Iranian issues,'' he added.

The US Congressional Gold Medal award ceremony at the US Capitol will be the first time US President George W Bush will have appeared in public with the Dalai Lama, who has visited the White House only for private meetings.

''For us, the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader and that is how he is being treated here,'' said the State Department official, adding that China informed Washington over the weekend of its decision to pull out of the Berlin meeting.

China also canceled an annual German-China human rights dialogue meeting scheduled for December in Germany to show its displeasure over German Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting last month with the Dalai Lama.

Political directors from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, Britain, France, Russia and the United States -- as well as host Germany, are set at their next Iran meeting to discuss the language of a new UN sanctions resolution against Iran, say US officials.

But China and Russia are both reluctant to impose a third round of UN sanctions against Tehran, which says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity and not building a bomb.

REUTERS CS BST0107

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