Lama calls for peace as Olympic torch heads to Tibet

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{image-dalai lama_12062008.jpg}Sydney, June 12: Dalai Lama on Thursday appealed to Tibetans not to disturb the Olympic torch relay as it passes through the capital Lhasa next week, saying he fully supports the Beijing Olympics.

The torch relay became a focus of Tibetan pro-independence protests in Paris, London and other cities that threatened to cast a shadow over the Beijing Games in August.The protests followed violent protests against the Chinese government in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in March. China says 22 people died in the violence, while Tibet supporters overseas say many times that number were killed in the protests and a subsequent crackdown. The Chinese government blames the Dalai Lama for the unrest, saying it was part of a campaign to split Tibet from the rest of China. The Dalai Lama has denied these charges, saying he wants a meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people under China's rule, not independence.
On Thursday, he reiterated his call for his supporters not to target the Beijing Games.

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"We have fully supported the Olympic Games right from the beginning. The torch is part of that," the Dalai Lama told a news conference in Sydney. "Over one billion Chinese brothers and sisters feel really proud of that. We should respect that. So, I don't think there will be any trouble," when the torch relay is in Tibet, he said.

The torch has traveled much of the world since it was lit in Athens in March. While the torch relay was haunted by protests along its international route, a focus was also put on the Chinese security forces who guarded the flame as invited participants jogged through the streets carrying the torch.

The torch, currently threading its way through China, will be used to officially launch the Olympics in Beijing on Aug. 8.
China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially an independent state for most of that time. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951. Dalai Lama is in Sydney to deliver a series of meditation lectures.

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