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Pope Benedict XVI not to meet Dalai Lama during visit

There is no planned meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama this month when the Tibetan spiritual leader comes to Italy.

Italian news agencies, without identifying their sources, had reported on Oct. 31 that Benedict planned to meet with him at the Vatican.

But Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Monday that there were no plans for such a meeting.

The Dalai Lama's recent meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President George W. Bush have drawn rebukes from Beijing.

Benedict met with the Dalai Lama last year in what the Vatican had described as a private visit. This year, Benedict has stepped up efforts to improve Church relations with China. Formal ties with Beijing were broken after the Communists came to power.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is scheduled to give a religious lecture in Milan in December and then will visit Rome, according to his entourage.

The Dalai Lama insists he only seeks autonomy for Tibet, which China has occupied since 1951. The Chinese government claims he wants to split the region from China.