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Gillard denies snubbing Dalai Lama

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard refused to meet the Dalai Lama during an official visit but insisted she had not given way to Chinese pressure to shun the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

"I make my own decisions and the government makes its own decisions about meetings that we hold," Ms Gillard said.

The Dalai Lama said he was not disappointed. He seemed to know little about Ms Gillard - including her gender.

"If your prime minister has some kind of spiritual interest, then of course, my meeting would be useful, otherwise I have nothing to ask him," the Dalai Lama said during a news conference. He twice referred to Ms Gillard as a man before he was corrected.

Meetings with the Dalai Lama are a delicate issue for heads of state because China regards him as a dangerous separatist who wants Tibet to split from the country - a charge he denies.

In Australia, which has extensive trade ties with China, a low-key 2008 meeting between the Dalai Lama and the acting prime minister brought a rebuke from Beijing.

Some MPs accused Ms Gillard of being out of step with Australia's most important defence ally, the United States, where the Dalai Lama has met President Barack Obama.

Some observers suspect Ms Gillard is demonstrating her independence of the Greens party, a vocal critic of China's control of Tibet and a crucial supporter of the ruling Labor Party. Greens leader Bob Brown met the Dalai Lama and had been lobbying Ms Gillard to do the same.

Ms Gillard did not explain her decision, despite acknowledging last month that Australians expected their leaders to receive the revered Nobel Peace Prize winner.

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