Image: Dalai Lama
Morry Gash  /  AP
The Dalai Lama participates in a long life ceremony Thursday, July 24, 2008, in Madison, Wis.
updated 7/24/2008 2:36:44 PM ET 2008-07-24T18:36:44

Republican presidential candidate John McCain is scheduled to meet with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, on Friday.

The two will meet in Aspen, Colorado, where the Dalai Lama plans to address a symposium on Tibetan culture and its impact on global issues, the McCain campaign said Thursday.

Campaigning in Columbus, Ohio, the Arizona senator said he had arranged Friday's meeting.

"I have been a great admirer of the Dalai Lama," McCain said. He called him a "transcendent national role model."

The Dalai Lama has been based in India since fleeing his Himalayan homeland in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He remains immensely popular among Tibetans, despite persistent efforts by Beijing to demonize him.

China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that period. The Dalai Lama insists he wants "real autonomy," not independence for Tibet.

The issue of Tibetan autonomy has attracted increased attention this year with China hosting the Summer Olympics. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in October, in a ceremony attended by President George W. Bush.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak at the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit leadership organization, on Saturday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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