PARIS: A top aide says if French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets the Dalai Lama in August, it will be as a religious leader, not as head of state.
In contrast, Sarkozy will receive the pope in September as head of state. Henri Gaino says that would not be the case should Sarkozy meet the Dalai Lama.
Gaino was responding Friday on LCI TV to displeasure voiced by China over an eventual meeting.
Sarkozy pleased the Chinese by announcing he would attend the opening Olympics ceremony after first suggesting he skip it. Ties between China and France have been strained since protesters angry about China's security crackdown in Tibet disrupted the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay.