Dalai Lama Wants to Give Up Ceremonial Duties

The Dalai Lama wants to give up his lesser known role as the ceremonial leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile, an aide said Tuesday, in what appeared to be another step in the aging leader's efforts to prepare his people for life after he dies.

However, he will remain the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the focal point of Tibetan national aspirations, said spokesman Tenzin Taklha.

As head of the dominate Gelug branch of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the top religious leader for Tibet. Many of his predecessors also served as Tibet's political ruler, and the Dalai Lama himself served as head of government there after Chinese troops marched into his Himalayan homeland in 1950.

Beijing claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries.

Amid increasing tensions with the Chinese, he fled into exile in India in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile.

In recent years, the 75-year-old has sought to reduce his active role in that administration. Since the 2001 election of a Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, the Dalai Lama has considered himself semiretired, Taklha said.

"The Dalai Lama has been advising Tibetans to carry on responsibilities as if he not there," he said.

The Dalai Lama now hopes to give up ceremonial duties like addressing the parliament and signing resolutions, Taklha said. He is expected to raise the issue at the next session of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile in March.

"If the members agree to his request, the Dalai Lama will like to step back from his ceremonial duties in the following six months," he told The Associated Press.

The Dalai Lama has long pressed China to allow Tibet to nurture its own language and culture, but has recently expressed frustration with those efforts. China's government accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for independence for Tibet, but he says he only seeks a form of autonomy for the region.