PARIS, FRANCE - Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, will come to Paris this weekend on a visit that threatens to throw a new chill over the often difficult relations between France and China.
He insists his two-day visit, during which the mayor of Paris will make him an honorary citizen of the French capital, is not political but that has not stopped Beijing issuing angry warnings that bilateral ties will be damaged.
China has already lashed out at the European countries that have received the 73-year-old Buddhist leader this week during his latest European tour that brings him to Paris on Saturday.
And more fury is expected after Mayor Bertrand Delanoe on Sunday presents the Dalai Lama, a Nobel peace prize laureate, with an honour that was awarded him in his absence last year.
The Socialist mayor said the award is an initiative of the city of Paris and not of the French state, and officials say no central government figures will meet with the Dalai Lama during his trip.
But those assurances did nothing to assuage the anger in Beijing, which accuses the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since 1959, of seeking independence for Tibet from Chinese rule.
Last month it warned Paris not to make more 'errors' on Tibet ahead of the visit by the Dalai Lama, who says he wants only meaningful autonomy for his homeland and not independence.
'If the Paris city government does make this award, it will definitely meet once again with the Chinese people's firm opposition,' a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that Beijing saw such moves as meddling in its internal affairs.
Delanoe replied 'there is no question of interfering' but that 'there was also no question of renouncing my convictions, without seeking to be provocative.'
The latest warning from Beijing 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.
That meeting 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.
The Dalai Lama does not wish 'to be a bother or present difficulties for his hosts,' said Wangpo Bashi, one of the Dalai Lama's representatives in France.
The leader will meet with members of the Tibetan community here and give a public lecture on the theme of secular ethics in a sports stadium during his weekend visit.
The 14th Dalai Lama kicked off his European tour in Denmark last Friday and also visited Iceland and Poland.
On Thursday, in another move likely to anger Chinese authorities, he issued a statement paying tribute to those killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown and urged China's leaders to review the events that led to the bloodshed.