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Dalai Lama mistakes Australian PM for a man

14 june 2011, 15:55
0
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. ©AFP
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. ©AFP
It may be just as well that the Dalai Lama has given up his political role after the revered Tibetan spiritual leader Tuesday referred to Australia's female prime minister as a man, AFP reports.

Questioned on whether he was disappointed that Julia Gillard would not be meeting him during his visit, the globe-trotting icon replied: "No."

"If your prime minister has some kind of spiritual interest then of course my meeting would be useful," he told reporters at Parliament House.

"Otherwise, I have nothing to ask him. Also, you see, there's no point to seek advice from him."

He was quickly corrected by one of his aides, who quietly said: "Her."

"Oh, from her," the 75-year-old said with a laugh.

Gillard, the first woman to lead Australia, later defended her decision not to meet the Dalai Lama, saying he was a frequent visitor to the country.

"I think he's been here four times in the last five years. On some occasions he has met with the prime minister, on others he hasn't," she told reporters.

Gillard said major trading partner China, which regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, had not influenced her decision.

"I make my own decisions and the government makes its own decisions about meetings that we hold," she said.

But the Australia Tibet Council said it was disappointed by the snub.

"Strangely, the prime minister can find time to fly to Sydney to meet Oprah Winfrey and meets regularly with Chinese officials and heads of industry, yet cannot find 10 minutes to meet the Dalai Lama," said the council's Paul Bourke.

The Dalai Lama himself did not seem upset, watching Gillard speak from the public benches during Question Time in Parliament House.

The Dalai Lama formally relinquished his role as the Tibetan movement's political leader in May, transferring powers to the head of the government-in-exile based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala.

He retained the more significant role of spiritual leader and will meet in Australia with Education Minister Peter Garrett as well as opposition leader Tony Abbott and Greens leader Bob Brown.

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