Mexican government to receive Dalai Lama

Mexico's government will greet the Dalai Lama as a religious leader — not as a politician — a top official said Tuesday.

Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, who oversees domestic political issues, told a news conference that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate would be welcomed as a religious leader, not as a political leader of Tibet, which China says is an integral part of its territory.

"The argument is that he is a religious leader, nothing more, nothing less," Creel said. "He is the head of the beliefs that he represents and we are going to receive him in that character."

Creel said that he would greet the Dalai Lama on behalf of President Vicente Fox, ruling out a direct reception.

Chinese government officials have expressed concern about the five-day visit, which starts Oct. 3, and had urged Mexican officials to shun the Dalai Lama.

Mexico has been working to expand political and economic relations with the giant Asian nation.

Local news media reported that the visit had caused a division in Fox's Cabinet, with Creel proposing that Fox meet him and Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez opposing the idea. Creel, however, denied that he had made such a proposal.