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No Olympic boycott, Dalai Lama tells NBC

The Dalai Lama made no mention of the situation in Tibet in the first public appearance of his U.S. tour, but he told NBC News that he didn't support an Olympic boycott.
Image: Dalai Lama visits Seattle
The Dalai Lama arrives for a discussion on the scientific basis for compassion at the University of Washington in Seattle on Friday. Stephen Brashear / Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The Dalai Lama made no mention of the situation in Tibet in the first public appearance of his U.S. tour, but he told NBC News in an interview that he didn't support an Olympic boycott over China's response to unrest in his homeland.

The Dalai Lama, in Seattle for a five-day conference on compassion, avoided mention of Tibet. Organizers say the Seeds of Compassion gathering is essentially nonpolitical, but co-founder Dan Kranzler alluded to Tibet, telling the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader on stage, "The world knows the truth."

The first event Friday, a dialogue between scientists and the Dalai Lama about early childhood development and compassion, went smoothly without any demonstrators on either side of the Tibet issue.

The Dalai Lama began his U.S. tour amid continuing turmoil in Tibet and loud protests accompanying the Olympic torch's passage to Beijing.

And while he avoided comments about Tibet at the conference, he told NBC News' Ann Curry in an exclusive interview that he didn't want any violence surrounding the torch relay or an Olympic boycott.

"I wish, basically, their world event, game event ... should take place smoothly," he said.

Asked if he wanted the United States and other world leaders to boycott the opening ceremony in support of Tibet, he replied, "That's up to them."

On Friday, the Olympic torch arrived in Buenos Aires in its only South American stop of its world tour. Police, security officials and fences kept protesters from the torch on its 8.5-mile route in the capital of Argentina.

The Dalai Lama's arrival in Seattle on Thursday was uneventful. He said he was saddened by what happened in San Francisco, where thousands of protesters prompted officials to make last-minute changes to the Olympic torch relay route, but he voiced support for nonviolent demonstrations.

"Firstly, I myself, fully committed about democracy, the right of expression, the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, among Tibetan," he told Curry. " I cannot say shut up."

The Tibetan leader again said he is not against China hosting the Olympic games. "We are not anit-Chinese," he told Curry. But he said he was not opposed to world leaders using the games as an opportunity to talk about human rights.

"It is very important that you see, make clear, not only just the Tibet case.  But in China proper, the record of human right is poor.  And religious freedom, also very poor," he said.

Asked what his message to China was, he said: "My main point is: We are not against you. And I'm not seeking separation."'

The Dalai Lama arrived in Seattle for the session Friday morning under heavy security with police on foot, motorcycles and horses. The only demonstrator outside the gathering site held a sign reading, "Free Taiwan, then Tibet."

Organizers of the five-day Seeds of Compassion conference say the visit is expected to draw more than 150,000 people to dozens of workshops and events. An estimated 7,000 attended the opening session.