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(The Dalai Lama gestures before speaking to students during a talk at Mumbai University February 18, 2011. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)

China repeated a call on the Dalai Lama on Wednesday to respect what it said was the historic practice of reincarnation, after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader implied in a newspaper interview he may be the last to hold the position.

The Dalai Lama, in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, said the tradition of the post could end with him, adding the Tibetan Buddhism was not dependent on a single person.

The Dalai Lama, 79, has stated previously that he will not be reborn in China if Tibet is not free and that no one, including China, has the right to choose his successor “for political ends”. China has previously warned the Dalai Lama he has no right to abandon the tradition of reincarnation.

China, which regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist, has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since Communist troops marched in 1950…

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