Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Saturday said he will decide when he is "about 90" whether he should be reincarnated and added firmly that China should have no say in the matter.
The Dalai Lama made the statement in a 4,200-word document issued after a gathering of leaders of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala.
"When I am about 90, I will consult the high lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not," he said.
"On that basis we will take a decision," the 76-year-old spiritual leader, who is the 14th Dalai Lama, said.
"Apart from the reincarnation recognised through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the Peoples Republic of China," he added.
Under Tibetan tradition, monks identify a young boy who shows signs he is a reincarnation of a late leader.
The spiritual leader said he had decided to lay out "clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama" while he was still "physically and mentally fit" so that there was "no room for doubt or deception."
"The person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognised," he said.
He said that if it was ultimately decided that that there was a need for a 15th Dalai Lama to be recognised, responsibility for doing so would mainly lie with officers of the Dalai Lamas trust.
"They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions," he said.
The institution of the Dalai Lama has been in existence since 1642, according to the Dalai Lama's office.
Former Tibetan prime minister in exile Samdong Rinpoche told reporters that the Dalai Lama's statement should "put to rest" all queries about the reincarnation procedure.
Many predict China will simply appoint its own successor, raising the prospect of two Dalai Lamas -- one recognised by Beijing and the other chosen by exiles or with the blessing of the current Dalai Lama.
This happened in 1995 when China rejected the Dalai Lama's choice to be the next Panchen Lama, the second-highest ranking Tibetan Buddhist, and picked its own reincarnation.
The Chinese-raised Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu, is now 21 and often extols Beijing's rule over Tibet. The Dalai Lama's selection, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has not been seen since 1995 after he was detained by China.
The Dalai Lama had earlier signalled a willingness to break with custom by choosing a successor before his death or among exiles outside Tibet. He had also said he might be open to electing the next Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He later founded the government in exile in Dharamshala after being offered refuge by India.
China vilifies the Dalai Lama as a "separatist" who incites violence in Tibet, while the Dalai Lama insists his sole focus is a peaceful campaign for greater autonomy for his homeland.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.