Dalai Lama shrugs off Norway government snub

Oslo (AFP) - The Dalai Lama said on Wednesday he held no grudges against Norway's government after they decided not to meet him on his trip to Oslo in order to avoid further damaging already fragile relations with China.

"Of course, if leaders like President Obama want to meet, I am glad, but I do not want to create any inconvenience for anyone," the spiritual leader of the Tibetans told the press as he marked the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize.

Arguing that his real goal was to meet people not their leaders, the Dalai Lama said: "There is no reason to be disappointed. The more accusations from the Chinese government, the more popularity for me."

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 in recognition of his non-violent campaign to end China's rule of his homeland.

He was invited to Norway by pro-Tibetan groups.

The country's minister for foreign affairs, Boerge Brende, said the government's decision not to meet the Tibetan leader was taken with regard to "the absolutely extraordinary situation between China and Norway" which have not had "any real political contact" for several years.

Following the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 to Chinese dissident Liu Xiabobo, who the authorities consider a "criminal", Beijing stopped all high-level contact with Norway, though trade has flourished between the two countries and stood at an all-time high last year.

Beijing considers Tibet an integral part of its territory and regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on Wednesday that it was watching the actions of the Norwegian government "closely".

"We follow closely how the Norwegian government handles this issue, because we believe that State-to-State ties should be built on the basis of equality and mutual respect," she said.

"We hope that Norway can really respect China's core concerns... and take concrete actions for the improvement of our bilateral ties."

However, the refusal by the Norwegian government not to meet the Dalai Lama did not go down well at home, with critics accusing the government of "cowardice", claiming leaders were willing to trade their values for economic interests.

"Norway loses face," exclaimed an editorial in the newspaper Aftenposten. "Now China dictates the foreign policy of Norway on the Tibetan question. This is sad. And pitiful."