Hubert Vialatte, Associated Press

The Dalai Lama wrapped up a high-profile visit to France that coincided with the Beijing Olympics by meeting behind closed doors with the French foreign minister after a religious ceremony Friday attended by the first lady.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, however, was conspicuously absent from both events. He and the exiled Tibetan leader may meet later this year – but avoided what would have been a politically sensitive meeting during the Olympic Games. Friday’s ceremony was among the Dalai Lama’s sole meetings with French authorities during his 11-day trip to France. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Human Rights Minister Rama Yade attended the religious ceremony, the inauguration of a Buddhist temple in the south of France.

Kouchner was the highest-ranking French official to meet with the Dalai Lama. “I told him he would always be welcome in France,” Kouchner told reporters after their talks.

Mathieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk of French origin who served as a translator during the trip, told reporters the “serious situation” in Tibet topped the Dalai Lama’s meeting with Kouchner.

“Coinciding with the Olympic Games, there’s a certain kind of extremely brutal repression that continues to reign,” Ricard said. The Dalai Lama wound a traditional white Tibetan scarf around the neck of first lady and former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. She, Yade and Kouchner wore the long, silk scarves during the ceremony blessing the temple in the town of Roqueredonde.

Although his visit to France centered mostly around spiritual matters, the Dalai Lama ratcheted up his criticism of the Chinese, accusing Chinese troops of firing at a crowd of Tibetans in China this week and saying people may have been killed during the incident. In an interview with Le Monde daily released Thursday, the Tibetan spiritual leader accused China of imposing a new, long-term “plan of brutal repression” and building new military camps in Tibetan areas. He also expressed disappointment that talks this year between his representatives and Chinese authorities about Tibet ran aground without breakthroughs.

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