PARIS, May 26, 2009 - Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe will meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to France next month, officials said Tuesday, despite warnings from China that it could provoke a diplomatic backlash.
Delanoe is to present the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader with an award voted last year by the city council making him an honorary citizen of Paris.
The Dalai Lama will be in France June 6 to 8 and no firm date has been set for the meeting, said Delanoe's spokesman Laurent Fary.
"He will be in Paris to receive the distinction of honorary citizen," said foreign ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux who sought to downplay the importance of the gesture by the Socialist mayor.
"This is an initiative taken completely independently by the city of Paris," said the spokesman. We belive the visit by the Dalai Lamai to Paris should not have an impact on the quality of our relations with China," he added.
Earlier this month, China warned Paris not to make more "errors" on Tibet ahead of the Dalai Lama's visit, just as frosty ties between the two nations had improved.
"If the Paris city government does make this award, it will definitely meet once again with the Chinese people's firm opposition," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters in Bejing.
"We urge the Paris side to stop doing things that interfere in China's internal affairs and make no further errors on the Tibet-related issue."
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet from Chinese rule and considers any official meeting with the leader as meddling in China's internal affairs.
The latest warning came after the two countries had patched up relations following Beijing's anger over President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama in December.
The meeting had prompted China to postpone a key summit with the European Union that would have been hosted by France, which held the rotating presidency at the time.
But tensions eased after Sarkozy met Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the G20 summit in London in April and dispatched several envoys to Beijing to put relations back on track.
No meetings are planned between the Dalai Lama and foreign ministry officials, the spokesman added.