Dalai Lama shrugs off apparent snub by Obama

WASHINGTON Thu Oct 8, 2009 7:43pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled religious leader, on Thursday shrugged off an apparent snub by President Barack Obama, saying he was assured Obama would raise Tibetan issues when he visits China next month.

"He already indicated that he's going to speak with the Chinese and it seems he (will be) seriously engaging with the Chinese about (the) Tibet issue," the Dalai Lama told CNN's "Situation Room" in an interview in Washington.

"More serious discussion is better than just a picture, so I have no disappointment," the 74-year-old Buddhist monk said, referring to a missed photo opportunity with Obama.

Obama, who will visit Beijing in mid-November, broke with the practice of his previous three predecessors and did not host the Dalai Lama for a brief chat at the White House.

The decision not to meet the Tibetan leader was made amid efforts to improve U.S.-China relations on issues from global warming and international finance to reigning in North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Human rights groups and opposition Republicans criticized Obama for being soft on China.

But the Dalai Lama, in Washington this week to receive a human rights award and conduct a series of spiritual lectures, said he was told by envoys that Obama's decision was taken "in order to avoid embarrassment to the Chinese president."

Describing Obama as "not only sympathetic" but eager to do "something practical" to help the rights situation in Tibet, the Dalai Lama urged critics "to think more holistically" and not focus on the lack of a meeting at the White House.

He told CNN he expected to meet Obama in Washington after the U.S. president's November summit with Chinese leader Hu Jintao, at the end of this year or early in 2010.

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950, prompting the Dalai Lama to flee to India to establish a government in exile.

(Reporting by Paul Eckert, editing by Anthony Boadle)