The Dalai Lama emphasized spiritual values rather than Tibetan independence when he arrived in Ottawa on Thursday for two days of meetings with Canadian politicians.
Tibet's leader-in-exile good-naturedly dodged reporters' questions when asked about the level of political support that he was getting from Canada for his decades-long quest to free his Buddhist nation.
"I'm not seeking independence," he insisted. He would, however, raise the matter of relations with China when he meets Prime Minister Paul Martin on Friday â the first such meeting between the Dalai Lama and a Canadian prime minister.
But he added amid laughter that it depended "entirely on his [Martin's] interests," whether Friday's meeting would stray from its official focus on spiritual matters.
After his cabinet meeting Thursday Martin told reporters he's willing to discuss human rights with the Dalai Lama.
|* Coverage from CBC Ottawa|
China, which annexed the Himalayan theocracy in 1951, says the Dalai Lama is a separatist and has warned Ottawa not to risk trade ties by welcoming him. Trade relations with China are worth $20 billion annually to Canada.
The 68-year-old Dalai Lama found refuge in India after fleeing his country in 1959 following a failed uprising.
On Thursday, he made light of his age, saying he had possibly another 35 years left to work for his goals of universal human values and religious understanding.
Claiming he was semi-retired already, he added that he yearned for full retirement as a mere Tibetan monk, with ever less and whiter hair.
The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1989, is in the midst of a 19-day visit to Canada. He is scheduled to meet with opposition MPs and functionaries on Thursday and Friday.