London, May 12: In a bid to avoid confrontation with China over Tibet, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has reportedly decided not to receive the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his official residence "10 Downing Street".
The Prime Minister will instead see the Tibetan leader in Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, thereby giving a message to China that he received the Dalai Lama in a spiritual rather than political capacity. The Dalai Lama's 11-day visit to Britain begins on May 20 and will include political as well as spiritual events, including taking part in a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Confirming that Brown won't meet the Dalai Lama at 10 Downing Street, a British Prime Minister Office spokesman, said: "As he said in Parliament, the Prime Minister intends to see the Dalai Lama. What is important is that they are meeting and will have a substantive conversation. It is also significant that the Chinese are engaging directly with representatives of the Dalai Lama."
Replying to a question, why the meeting was in Lambeth Palace, the spokesman reportedly said: "He is a spiritual representative and it makes sense for the Prime Minister to meet with him."
A number of other spiritual leaders are expected to be present at the meeting on May 23, reported the Times Online.
This would be the first time when a British PM will not meet the Dalai Lama at his official residence, as during his earlier visits, two ex-British PMs Tony Blair and John Major saw him at Downing Street. Other heads of states have also accorded him official welcome. Angela Merkel became the first German head of state to meet him last September, while President George W Bush received him at the White House and presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Meanwhile, Brown's decision has been severely criticised in British political circles. Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell attacked Brown's decision, saying he was adopting the "Lisbon Treaty" approach to the meeting. "There is no reason why he should not see the Dalai Lama at No 10, and the suspicion must be that he is responding to the Chinese Government," he said.
Hague said: "The Prime Minister should be prepared to meet all leaders in Downing Street."