Key won't meet Dalai Lama

11:23, Nov 24 2009

Prime Minister John Key says he will not meet the Dalai Lama when he visits New Zealand next month.

The decision goes against Mr Key's previous statements that he would meet the Tibetan spiritual leader if his diary permitted, but he denied it had been made after pressure from China.

"The reason simply is I've decided that I wouldn't get a lot out of that particular meeting. I don't see every religious leader that comes to town. I've seen him in the past, I may see him in the future."

He said the issue was not raised by Chinese president Hu Jintao during the Apec summit in Singapore at the weekend, and no other Chinese government agency had asked for a meeting not to proceed.

Mr Key did not expect any government ministers to meet the Dalai Lama, but said some National Party representatives might.

The Dalai Lama is due to visit New Zealand on December 5 and 6.

Meeting the Dalai Lama usually draws vehement protests from China, which is sensitive to claims of human rights abuses in Tibet.

When he was last in New Zealand in 2007, then-prime minister Helen Clark declined to meet him on the grounds she had spoken to him for 10 minutes during a chance encounter at Brisbane airport.

Winston Peters, foreign affairs minister at the time, met the Dalai Lama in Wellington, but made clear it was in his capacity as NZ First leader. Mr Key "dropped in" on a meeting between the  Dalai Lama and National foreign affairs spokesman, now minister, Murray McCully.

The coy engagements came after a diplomatic furore across the Tasman, where the Dalai Lama's meetings with Australian politicians brought angry protests from China.

New Zealand was in free trade talks with China at the time.

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