March 18, 2008 / 9:06 AM / 12 years ago

Dalai Lama says will quit if violence out of control

DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama said on Tuesday he would resign as leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile if violence veers out of control in Tibet and denied accusations from China that he was inciting riots.

A building burns during a protest in Machu County in Gansu Province in this March 17, 2008 handout photo from overseas Tibetan website Phayul. REUTERS/www.Phayul.com/Handout

“If things become out of control then my only option is to completely resign,” Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, told a news conference at his base of Dharamsala in northern India.

On Tuesday, China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating riots in which dozens may have died and said his followers were trying to “incite sabotage” of Beijing’s August Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959, denied Chinese accusations that he was masterminding protests and said he was against violence, whether from Chinese or Tibetans.

“Even 1,000 Tibetans sacrificed their life, not much help,” he told reporters. “Please help stop violence from Chinese side and also from Tibetan side.”

The Dalai Lama said he had nothing to hide from the Chinese.

“Investigate thoroughly, so if you want to start investigating from here you are most welcome,” he said. “Check our various offices.

“They can examine my pulse, my urine, my stool, everything,” he said with a laugh, miming as he talked.

The Nobel peace laureate reaffirmed that he wanted autonomy for Tibet within China but not outright independence.

Asked by Reuters what the Dalai Lama meant when he talked of resignation, Samdhong Rimpoche, the exiled government’s prime minister, said he would still remain as Dalai Lama, if not as leader of his people.

“If the Tibetan people are involved in violence and unable to be in a non-violent way, he would not be in a position to lead the Tibetan people,” Rimpoche said.

In fact, the Dalai Lama’s talk of resignation has surprised some members of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.

“Tibetan people, inside and outside, will not allow his Holiness to resign, and anyway I think his Holiness has no control over the situation,” Youdon Aukatsang, a parliament member, told Reuters by phone from New Delhi.

She said the Dalai Lama may have been trying to send a message to people in Tibet. “If there’s any element of violence in the demonstrations maybe this is his Holiness’ way of dissuading them.”

Monk-led anti-China protests in Lhasa, the biggest in almost two decades, turned ugly on Friday, weighing uncomfortably on the Communist leadership anxious to polish its image in the build-up to the Olympic Games.

Slideshow (8 Images)

India hosts the Dalai Lama in the India city of Dharamsala, seat of the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile and the scene of daily protests in the past week.

More than 2,000 Tibetans gathered on Tuesday from all over northeastern India for their biggest rally in the area in years, demanding the United Nations investigate reports of killings of protesters in China.

Led by hundreds of shaven-headed Buddhist monks in maroon robes, some as young as eight, they waved Tibetan flags and marched through the streets of Siliguri, chanting: “We want justice, we want freedom”.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Alex Richardson

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