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Carla Bruni - Sarkozy Meets the Dalai Lama

 


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The Dalai Lama may for one reason or another not have got to meet the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy during his current trip to France, but on Friday morning he met the unofficial and undeclared stand-in of sorts, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

France's first lady was among the around 2,000 guests invited to attend the opening ceremony of a new Buddhist temple in the town of Roqueredonde in southern France.

Among the other guests were a host of personalities including French actresses Juliette Binoche and Line Renaud and the former model Inès de la Fressangeas. But also present were a couple of current and former members of Sarkozy's government.

Seated next to Bruni Sarkozy were the foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, and the junior minister for human rights, Rama Yade. Both had initially toed the government line and declared they would probably not be attending, but just last week they announced that they would be present at the inauguration of the temple - the largest Buddhist centre in Europe.

Bruni-Sarkozy's presence was interpreted by many here as a diplomatic solution for the French president to avoid upsetting the Chinese government, whom he has been pressing for several months to reopen discussions with representatives of the exiled spiritual leader after the crackdown in Tibet by security forces in March.

After the ceremony, Bruni-Sarkozy had a private audience with the Dalai Lama and was later joined by Kouchner - a declared personal friend of the former Nobel peace prize winner.

The attendance of both Kouchner and Yade was the first official contact the Dalai Lama has had with members of the French government during this trip although he met a delegation of parliamentarians last week.

Part of the problem with the Dalai Lama's 12-day visit, which ends on Saturday, and the reason it has been covered so much in the French media, is of course the fact that although it is strictly a religious one, there have from the outset been political undertones.

Sarkozy's office maintained before the visit that the timing made a personal meeting with the Dalai Lama inappropriate as the trip occurred during the Olympic games in Beijing. And that was reportedly also a choice accepted by both the Dalai Lama and the French president.

The two men will however meet in France later this year on December 10.

Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com

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