The Dalai Lama on Thursday said his current visit to Italy was not meant to cause embarrassment, as China cautioned Rome against meeting with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader. The 72-year-old, who arrived in Milan on Wednesday for a ten-day stay, said he had no desire to create diplomatic difficulties for Italian politicians. ”My visit is not a political one,” he told reporters. ”I don’t want to make problems for the state and authorities of the countries I visit.

”I am here simply as a foreign visitor,” he added. The Dalai Lama’s trip has been greeted with reticence among political figures here.

An expected meeting with Pope Benedict XVI failed to materialize, Premier Romano Prodi will be abroad when the Dalai Lama is in Rome, and public talks with Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti, a former minister, fell through at the last minute.

The lukewarm official welcome is largely the result of Chinese hostility to the Dalai Lama’s visit, creating diplomatic difficulties for both Rome and the Vatican. Beijing sees the Dalai Lama as a ”political plotter” who aims to split the country. He does not recognise Chinese rule in Tibet and in 1989 won the Nobel peace prize for his non-violent opposition to it.