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Dalai Lama Speaks Out on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Alberta Oil Sands

by Jamie Komarnicki

CALGARY - As the Dalai Lama expressed optimism over China's progress in recent years, a group of protesters in Calgary said a more forceful message is needed to prompt change in the Communist country.

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, greets the audience at the "Now" conference at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, September 30, 2009. The Dalai Lama was speaking at the two-day conference which draws on compassion, connectedness and collaboration to explore the potential of campus-community partnerships. The Dalai Lama attended the event as part of his visit to Canada. (REUTERS/Todd Korol) Speaking Thursday in Calgary, the Tibetan spiritual leader said he had "nothing much to say" about the 60th anniversary of Communist China. The Dalai Lama noted the country has left behind its socialist past in favour of capitalism. He also told reporters that meetings with influential Chinese have left him optimistic about progress in China's attitude toward him and Tibet.

"Judging from a wider perspective, things are moving," he said.

But a group of about 30 Uighur protesters outside the Chinese Consulate said the Dalai Lama's message of peace and compassion is ineffective in China.

"We are here today because China's government today is celebrating 60 years of communism," said Abduluhat Nur, of the Alberta Uighur Culture Society.

"But eastern Turkistan is crying because they are under oppression."

The Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic ethnic group in China's Xinjiang region, staged anti-Chinese riots last year that resulted in violent unrest. Similar violence erupted in Tibet in March.

At Thursday's protests, members of the local Uighur community said they aren't advocating violence, but said messages of peace and harmony do little to motivate China to change.

"We would like to see more strongly the demand against China," said Gheyret Aush.

"Compassion, it works for the democratic countries. It doesn't work for the communist countries."

The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after Chinese troops invaded Tibet, said he believes he will one day return to his homeland.

In the city for a University of Calgary conference, the Tibetan spiritual leader broached a wide range of topics in a question-and-answer session with reporters.

He called military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq "a failure."

Military action is sometimes necessary, he said, citing the Second World War and Korea. But current conflicts are not so clear-cut.

"It's too early to say. So far, I think a failure, using military force. Hardliners (are) becoming even more harder," he said.

Civilian casualties create sympathy for the other side, he added.

The billions of dollars spent on war, meanwhile, would be better used in health care and education, the Dalai Lama said.

Asked about the development of Alberta's oilsands, he said given a choice between "destruction of environment or losing money, then we have to choose losing money."

He said leaders must find a middle ground, "using nature's resources with maximum care of environmental protection."

Calgary Herald with files from Robert Remington

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