Beliefnet

DHARMSALA, India, July 31 (AP)--The Dalai Lama on Monday declined an invitation to give the closing address to a U.N.-sponsored gathering of 1,000 religious leaders in New York because he was left out of the main conference in deference to China.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Tibetan Buddhist leader was omitted from the original list of invitees to the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit, to be held August 28-31.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard last week confirmed that the Dalai Lama was left off the list for fear that his presence would draw a strong protest from China.

Instead, the Dalai Lama was invited to attend the last two days of the conference, which are not being held in the United Nations, but at a hotel, where he was asked to give the closing address.

The Buddhist leader, considered by his followers to be an incarnate deity, also said that he had a previous engagement on the days of the conference's closing.

"His Holiness has never been comfortable in accepting invitations that are made out of compulsion," said the Dalai Lama's press secretary, Tenzin Taklha. "He doesn't want to do anything that would inconvenience any individual or organization which has invited him."

The U.N. invitation came after supporters of the Dalai Lama, including South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, protested the U.N. decision.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, after an abortive uprising against the Chinese occupation of his homeland.

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