Dalai urges New Year ban

DHARAMSALA - The Dalai Lama urged Tibetans yesterday not to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, just days before his meeting with US President Barack Obama.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who greeted thousands of Tibetans in the Buddhist temple in the north Indian town of Dharamsala, said the gesture was to honour those in Tibet.

"We have heard some voices inside Tibet that they will not celebrate Losar. We should respect and abide by that call," the Dalai Lama said.

Tibetans who live in exile had many freedoms that those living in Tibet did not have, the Dalai Lama said.

This is the second successive year that Tibetans in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's headquarters, will not celebrate Losar, which is usually marked with song and dance.

Last year, Tibetans in exile had unanimously called off New Year celebrations in the aftermath of China's crackdown after the March 2008 uprisings in Tibet.

While the Dalai Lama steered clear of political comments on China or his upcoming trip to Washington, hundreds of Tibetans later signed I Love Tibet postcards, wishing Obama Tashi Delek, the traditional New Year greeting, and expressing hope that the meeting will result in some concrete action.

China urged the US on Friday to scrap the February 18 meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama, the latest source of friction in already strained Sino-US relations.

The Dalai Lama has said he wants a high level of genuine autonomy for his homeland, which he fled in 1959. Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist responsible for fomenting unrest in Tibet. - Reuters