གཟའ་ཉི་མ། ༢༠༢༣/༠༣/༢༦

Dalai Lama Eager to Visit Earthquake Affected Area

Quake survivor Sonammon, 52, who lost ten members of her family from the recent earthquake, gestures in prayer while holding onto her nephew in Jiegu, Yushu County, on April 16, 2010. The death toll from the strong earthquake in northwestern China has ris

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said he is eager to visit the affected region to offer consolation. In a statement posted on his Web site Saturday.

"To fulfil the wishes of many of the people there, I am eager to go there myself to offer them comfort," the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said in a statement issued from Dharamshala, his home in exile in northern India.

The Dalai Lama added that the remote western Qinghai province, where the quake struck on Wednesday, killing at least 1,339 people and injuring nearly 12,000 others, also "happens to be where" he was born.

"Because of the physical distance between us, at present I am unable to comfort those directly affected, but I would like them to know I am praying for them," he said.

He praised the response of Chinese authorities to the disaster, "especially Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who has not only personally offered comfort to the affected communities, but has also overseen the relief work."

There was no response to his remarks from the Chinese government. Most of the region's population is Tibetan.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting separatism in Tibetan areas, an allegation he denies. The Chinese government has routinely criticized his travels as political campaigning, making it unlikely that he would be allowed to visit.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao finished his two-day visit to the quake-hit region on Friday. He said the whole country is grieving for the victims of the earthquake.

The quake and its aftershocks toppled poorly-built houses, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Two years ago, a massive 7.9 magnitude quake hit the neighboring Sichuan province, killing nearly 90,000 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.