Thursday, 24 April 2014

Zeman to ignore Dalai Lama if elected president

ČTK |
24 January 2013

Prague, Jan 23 (CTK) - Czech presidential candidate Milos Zeman will refuse to meet the Tibetan Dalai Lama if he were elected, Zeman said in a debate mainly devoted to foreign policy and staged by the think-tank European Values on Tuesday.

However, if the Dalai Lama were a big investor, the meeting could take place, said Zeman, former Social Democrat prime minister in 1998-2002, now honorary head of the Party of Citizens' Rights (SPOZ).

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), who is Zeman's rival in the January 25-26 presidential race, did not take part in the debate, citing lack of time.

"The Dalai Lama is certainly a religious leader. If I were a religious leader, I would gladly meet him," Zeman said.

"But as far as I know, no one, none of my assistants or opponents have ever called me a religious leader," he added.

"There would be another alternative if the Dalai Lama were a big investor," Zeman said.

He said the Tibetan spiritual leader had "every right" to come to the Czech Republic and meet local religious dignitaries, but "this is all."

Former Czech and Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel (1989-2003) repeatedly met Dalai Lama while in office and they were linked with a personal friendship.

Havel's successor Vaclav Klaus, whose term expires this March, has never done so.

Last September, a verbal exchange started on the political scene after Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democratic Party, ODS) said at the 54th International Engineering Fair in Brno that support to the Tibetan Dalai Lama or the Russian activists Pussy Riot may harm Czech exports.

Necas's position was then rejected by Schwarzenberg.

"I have been horrified that the prime minister of the Czech Republic can bow to the countries about which we all know that they are suppressing human rights," Schwarzenberg said.

"To apply Chinese propaganda to the issue of Tibet, this is a bit too much for me," he added.

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