WASHINGTON, July 27, 2001 - A senior Buddhist abbot who fled Tibet for the United States says he wants to work toward building better relations between Beijing and Tibet?s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. Agya Rinpoche, speaking by phone with RFA's Kalden Lodoe in the Tibetan Amdo dialect, said he sought political asylum in the United States in 1998 in part because "if I stayed in Tibet, there was not much prospect of public service and zero prospect of spiritual practice. I saw no purpose in continuing to live like that." "I came to the United States not so much to protest against the Chinese, but more to try to establish a working relationship between the Dalai Lama and China," he said. Agya Rinpoche was Abbott at the 400-year-old Kumbum Monastery, a major Tibetan religious institution. He also held numerous political positions in China, serving as a committee member under the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He fled Tibet in 1998 and has said little in the past about his reasons for taking flight. "First, my spiritual teacher had expressed his strong wish that I give up all my political positions and devote myself completely to the practice of Dharma once I crossed the age of 50," he said, explaining his decision to leave Tibet. "Second, the Chinese government had promised us that it would consult the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people before naming the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. So when they turned down the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama and chose their own candidate, I felt truly disappointed. I even appealed. ... Later, I heard that the Chinese-appointed Panchen was coming to Kumbum where I was in charge of all religious matters. I could not let that happen. I had no choice but to leave." RFA?s interview with Agya Rinpoche is available at www.rfa.org. Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to listeners in Asia where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news reports - along with opinions and commentaries - and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Khmer, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Mandarin, Laotian, Vietnamese, Korean, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.