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Cry For Freedom On The Mall

Actor Casey Affleck, left, and his wife, Summer Phoenix, arrive for the launch party for the Esquire House 360, a 17,000 square-foot Italian villa in Beverly Hills, in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006. The opening night party benefitted The Art of Elysium, a charity dedicated to bringing artistic opportunities to children battling serious medical conditions.
AP
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, offered words of wisdom for thousands attending a Washington festival Sunday, urging them to have more compassion and be happier people.

"Try to be a more happy person," he said. "Many problems are essentially man-made problems."

He pointed out that in even the nation's capital, "Some families are very poor. This is not only morally wrong, but practically."

The Dalai Lama was guest speaker for the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival. Before addressing the crowd he gave District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams and Smithsonian officials white Buddhist scarves.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 with thousands of supporters after a failed revolt against Chinese rule of the mountain region. From his headquarters at Dharmsala, in northern India, he has headed a nonviolent struggle for Tibetan autonomy.

Just two weeks ago, while meeting on Capitol Hill and at the White House, the Dalai Lama said he was open to talks with Chinese leaders and asked members of Congress to help initiate them.


AP Photo
Richard Gere was in the
front row, with the monks,
as the Dalai Lama spoke to
the crowd.

China opposes autonomy for Tibet and sees the Dalai Lama as a rallying point for pro-independence forces. Chinese officials have refused to meet with him.

The Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Prize winner will meet with Secretary of State Madeline Albright on Monday.

Saturday, thousands of Tibetans and their supporters rallied in the park opposite the White House, in front of a huge Tibetan flag.

Actor Richard Gere, who has been personally and financially involved in the Tibetan Buddhist cause, addressed the crowd along with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, Thai activist Sulak Sivaraksa, and Tibetan leader Samdhong Rinpoche.

The 4,000-strong crowd turned out to urge the World Bank the scrap a contested plan to resettle nearly 60,000 farmers in traditional Tibetan lands.

"It's not acceptable. They should cancel the (World Bank) program," said Maguire, who won the peace prize in 1976 for her efforts to end the violence in Northern Ireland.

"The Tibetan situation can only be solved with an all-inclusive dialogue," she added.

The crowd chanted, "We want justice. We want freedom. We want it now," as it marched through downtown Washington to the Chinese embassy, stopping at the World Bank along the way.

It was the latest in a series of protests against the bank.

The World Bank's $160 million loan, approved last year, would help pay to resettle about 60,000 poor farmers, many of them Chinese, moving some of them to lands where the Dalai Lama was born.

A scathing report by the World Banks independent Inspection Panel says the bank failed to follow its own rules in assessing the potential social and environmental consequences of the project, including its impact on minority groups.

It said the bank, which will revisit the issue next week, did not make adequate efforts to consult the public and conducted no meaningful analysis of alternatives.

Now critics hope the bank will stop financing the project, which Tibetan exile groups have blasted as tantamount to "cultural genocide."

"As we celebrate Independence Day in America, we should recall those who are still living under totalitarian regimes, such as Tibetans," said John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet.

"The World Bank's project is a serious threat to the already threatened Tibetan culture. We implore the World Bank to cancel this misguided project."

China annexed Tibet in 1951, prompting bitter protests, and has ruled Tibet from Beijing for nearly 50 years.

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