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Dalai Lama to quit as political head

posted 10 Mar 2011, 10:49 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 Mar 2011, 10:51 ]
The Dalai Lama announces he will step down as political leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
VARIOUS-DALAI LAMA - The Dalai Lama announced on Thursday that he plans to step down as political leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The 76-year-old has long seen himself as "semi-retired" from political leadership, though he remains Tibet's spiritual leader.

Speaking from the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where he has lived in exile since 1959, the Dalai Lama said he has repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom he can devolve power.

He added: "Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect."

The Dalai Lama's announcement came as thousands of exiled Tibetans marched on the streets on Kathmandu to mark the 52nd anniversary of the failed uprising against China.

Clashes broke out when Nepalese police stepped in to disperse the protesters, with dozens reported injured.

Every year the refugees protest in the capital of Nepal to draw attention to their exile.

The Dalai Lama's resignation is seen as a move to create a more assertive and democratic body, as Tibet seeks autonomy from China.

China, which has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since 1950, denounced his resignation as a "trick", saying the Dalai Lama uses religion to mask separatist activities.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after the failed uprising against Chinese rule.

He advocates "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet within China, but Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist responsible for stirring up unrest.

Nick Rowlands, Reuters.