WASHINGTON (AFP) — Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Thursday that he would hold talks on Friday with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.
"I've been a great admirer of his ... and look forward to meeting an individual who is a transcendent international role model and hero," the White House hopeful said ahead of the meeting in Aspen, Colorado.
"And I have admired him and respected him for the efforts he's made on behalf of freedom of the people of Tibet but also all over the world," McCain told reporters in Ohio, where he was to attend an event on cancer later in the day with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
The Dalai Lama will be speaking Friday at a three-day seminar at the Aspen Institute in Colorado that will bring together scholars, teachers and others to explore Tibet's history and culture, the Washington Post reported.
McCain, who has criticized China's crackdown on human rights in Tibet, already had a speech scheduled in Denver, and will then fly to Aspen for a private meeting with the Tibetan leader, the report said.
He said the talks with the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner were "mutually agreed to."
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops in to "liberate" the remote Himalayan region.
The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959 following a failed uprising and has since lived in exile in India.
China accuses him of being a separatist, but he insists he does not want independence for Tibet, seeking only greater autonomy for the Himalayan territory as well as an end to religious and cultural repression.
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