Gdansk, Poland, 7 September 2008 (By Yann Le Guernigou and Gareth Jones, Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy defied China on Saturday by meeting the Dalai Lama and said Europe shared the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's concerns over the situation in his homeland.
China called off a summit with the European Union last Monday in protest against Sarkozy's plan to meet the Dalai Lama, branded by Beijing as a "splittist" for advocating self-determination for his mountain homeland.
"The French side ... took an opportunistic, rash and short-sighted approach to handling the Tibet issue."
Sarkozy said the Dalai Lama, who welcomed him by draping a 'kata' or traditional Tibetan white scarf on his shoulder, had said at the meeting that he does not seek independence for Tibet. "I told him how much importance I attach to the pursuit of dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities."
The two met in the Polish port of Gdansk where they joined 25th anniversary celebrations of Polish pro-democracy leader Lech Walesa's winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
French companies were subjected to Chinese boycotts and demonstrations earlier this year after the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay was disrupted by anti-China protesters.
Earlier on Saturday, the Dalai Lama called for dialogue and compassion to solve the world's problems.
"Warfare failed to solve our problems in the last century, so this century should be a century of dialogue," he told delegates, including Walesa, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
The Dalai Lama, who met Tusk privately on Saturday, praised Polish courage in resisting past oppression.
The 73-year-old monk is a popular figure in Poland, where some see in his struggle with China's communist authorities echoes of their own battles under Walesa against Soviet-backed communist rule that ended in 1989.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after a failed insurrection against Chinese rule in Tibet, occupied by People's Liberation Army troops from 1950.
(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris)
(Writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Elizabeth Piper)