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In Mexico, Dalai Lama Says Environmental Damage to Tibet Shows China Dumping Nuclear Waste There

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2004/10/04; October 4, 2004.]

By Will Weissert

MEXICO CITY, October 3, 2004 - Deformed birds and other animals born with birth defects in remote corners of Tibet are evidence China is dumping nuclear waste there, the Dalai Lama said Sunday.

"Logically, if we use common sense, in China proper, (it is) so densely populated that the only suitable area where this nuclear waste could go is Tibet," the 14th Dalai Lama said during a news conference kicking off his four-day visit to Mexico City.

The Buddhist leader, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has called for greater autonomy and religious freedom in Tibet, but acknowledges it is part of China. He has lived in exile in Dharamsala, India, since a failed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese government in 1959.

In recent years, the Dalai Lama's supports in Tibet have charged China has damaged the region's environment by dumping nuclear waste and carelessly exploiting oil, water and timber resources.

They have also suggested China stores nuclear missiles underground in Tibetan territory, but the Dalai Lama distanced himself from those claims on Sunday.

"We have no clear information about the setting up nuclear weapons in Tibet," he said.

The Dalai Lama, 69, has visited more than 70 countries. His Mexican trip wraps up a tour of the Americas that also took him to Miami, as well as Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala.

This country has been quick to say it is welcoming the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, not a political one. The issue is sensitive for Mexico, which has a long tradition of not taking sides in international conflicts and is trying to expand political and economic relations with China.

The Dalai Lama met with the presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala, but a visit with President Vicente Fox won't be on the Mexico City itinerary.

Using dry wit to deflect journalists' most controversial quires, the Dalai Lama said not meeting with Fox didn't bother him.

"I don't want to cause embarrassment for anybody," he said alternating between a tone of voice that was both gently booming and playful.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to address lawmakers at Mexico's lower House of Congress on Wednesday, but only as an invited guest. The scheduled visit drew an angry letter from Bejing in May and China's ambassador to Mexico, Ren Jingyu, has said this country should not allow the Dalai Lama to spread his revolutionary messages on its soil.

The Dalai Lama said key leaders of the exiled Tibetan community were always anxious to meet with China's leadership, calling face-to-face negotiations "essential, because the Chinese government is very suspicious."

Also on Sunday, the Dalai Lama headed to the capital's massive National Auditorium to give an address called "Ethics in the New Millennium." The event has drawn criticism because organizers are charging members of the public admittance fees, but Tibetan leaders in Mexico City said the proceeds would go to cover the expenses of the Dalai Lama's trip and be donated to charity.

"Despite crisis of violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and parts of Africa and other places ... I believe the world is getting better," the Dalai Lama said. "I'm optimistic."

The Dalai Lama last came to Mexico in 1989, but said he wasn't ready to draw parallels between the two visits.

"I've just arrived here this morning and have yet to learn," he joked, when asked to give his opinions of this country. "At the end of the trip, I might have something to say."nnaur and Koldam in Bilaspur have been put on maximum alert.

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