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Italy: Milan mayor grants Dalai Lama city's top honour

last update: June 26, 14:13

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Milan, 26 June (AKI) - The mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, on Tuesday bestowed on Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama the seal of the city - its highest honour.

A crowd applauded the Dalai Lama when he arrived at Milan's Piazza Scala for a meeting with Pisapia and other members of Milan city council.

A small group of protesters took the opportunity to heckle Pisapia after the city council last week bowed to Chinese pressure and cancelled its plan to give the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship. "Shame on You Pisapia!" read a banner.

In a speech delivered at Milan's town hall, the Nobel Peace laureate urged respect for other religions as well as for atheism. The speech touched on the current economic crisis and sharply criticised materialism.

"In modern times, there has been an exaggerated emphasis on the importance of material development and a belief this guarantees happiness and human well-being. This is misguided," the Dalai Lama said.

"We should use our intelligence to develop the positive qualities of our minds and increase self-awareness... the source of happiness is within ourselves."

Rome, Bologna, and Venice have resisted pressure from Beijing and made the 77-year-old Dalai Lama an honorary citizen of those cities. But Milan is spending billions of euros on hosting the Expo 2015 and fears a similar move could lose it lucrative business from China - the world's second- biggest economy.

The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, is considered a rogue separatist by China, which claims sovereignty over Tibet. He has been in exile from Tibet for 50 years and lives in Dharamsala, India.

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