Schroeder regrets Merkel's Dalai Lama meeting

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BEIJING, Nov 9 (Reuters) Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed regret over his successor Angela Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama but said he was confident it would not hurt bilateral ties, the China Daily reported today.

''Some recent situations have hurt Chinese people's feelings, and I regret it,'' Schroeder said at a seminar on China's development and world harmony.

China criticised the September meeting between Merkel and Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, and said it would ''seriously damage'' bilateral ties. It cancelled a human rights meeting in Germany and pulled out of a meeting at which world powers were to discuss new sanctions against Iran.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Communist rule in 1959 and is branded by China as a ''separatist''. He has said he only wants greater autonomy for Tibet.

Schroeder urged China and Germany to ''look forward'' despite the discord and but said Merkel ''committed a mistake'' by meeting the Dalai Lama.

Beijing has also criticised recent meeting of the Dalai Lama with officials from the United States and Canada, saying they constitute interference in China's internal affairs and infringe on its sovereignty.

''My predecessors and I refused to meet with the Dalai Lama because of this consideration, and I hope the incumbent government will adhere to it, too,'' Schroeder was quoted as saying.

Merkel made an official visit to China in August, seeking to bolster diplomatic relations and promote economic ties.

REUTERS AM ND1050

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