Ulan Bator, Mongolia, Nov. 7--(AP) The Dalai Lama denied Chinese assertions that he seeks independence for Tibet, saying during a trip to neighboring Mongolia on Thursday that he would settle for autonomy.

The exiled Tibetan leader made the comments during an appearance at Mongolian National University to accept an honorary degree. About 200 academics and Buddhist monks were in the audience. "I am not seeking independence. I am seeking self-rule. I think that benefits both Chinese and Tibetan people." he said in English. He did not elaborate, but has previously appealed for greater Tibetan cultural and political autonomy.

Chinese officials have complained about the Dalai Lama's visit to Buddhist Mongolia, accusing him of promoting Tibetan independence. Chinese communist forces occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing says the Himalayan region has been Chinese for centuries. The Dalai Lama fled to exile in India after a failed uprising in 1959.

China has discouraged countries from letting the Dalai Lama visit. He canceled a planned trip to Mongolia in September after Russia and South Korea refused him transit visas, possibly to avoid angering China. On this trip, he came via Japan.

Rail traffic between China and Mongolia resumed Thursday after a two-day suspension, officials said. China stopped the trains for what it said were technical reasons rather than retaliation at Mongolia for allowing the Dalai Lama to visit.

The Dalai Lama has been thronged this week by adoring Mongolians, who share religious and cultural ties with Tibet and regard him as an important spiritual figure. On Wednesday, he preached to a crowd of more than 5,000 people.

Wang Fukang, a Chinese Embassy official in Ulan Bator, said Wednesday that "the Dalai Lama gets involved in politics no matter what country he is in. He talks about separation, so China is fully against this."

At the university ceremony, academics asked the Dalai Lama whether new Chinese leaders who are expected to be installed during a Communist Party congress that begins Friday will change Beijing's policy toward Tibet. He said it was "too early" to know. But, he said, "I'm optimistic because the world is changing, and China is an important part of it."

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