The Dalai Lama has met Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and a number of Dutch religious leaders in The Hague's St James Church. The authorities decided on the location to emphasise the religious rather than political nature of the meeting.
"The Netherlands decides the way it speaks to people," Verhagen said. "Because we are supporters of freedom of religion and expression and human rights, we want to speak to religious leaders."
Verhagen said the Dutch government regards the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader, not the head of a Tibetan independence movement. Even so, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende declined to meet him.
The Dalai Lama said he did not discuss politics with Verhagen. "This is not an appropriate area," he said, pointing to the 19th-century facade of the St. Jacob Church.
After meeting Verhagen and representatives of Dutch Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities, the Dalai Lama visited parliament where he spoke to lawmakers on the foreign affairs committee.