Next Dalai Lama could be a woman, Tibetan leader says

SYDNEY (AFP) - The Dalai Lama waded into Australia's bitter gender war on Thursday, saying his successor as the spiritual leader of the Tibetans could be a woman.

"If the circumstances are such that a female Dalai Lama is more useful, then automatically a female Dalai Lama will come," he told a press conference in Sydney to launch a 10-day tour of Australia.

The exiled 77-year-old was questioned about the gender conflict reignited by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week. He replied that the world faces a "moral crisis" of inequality and suffering and needs leaders with compassion.

"In that respect, biologically, females have more potential," the Dalai Lama said. "Females have more sensitivity about others' well-being."

"In my own case, my father, very short temper. On a few occasions I also got some beatings," the spiritual leader said, "But my mother was so wonderfully compassionate."

Labour leader Ms Gillard claimed on Tuesday that the conservatives would marginalise women and set back abortion laws if they win national elections in September.

On Wednesday, she accused opposition leader Tony Abbott of a pattern of misogynist behaviour, sparking angry recriminations.

The Dalai Lama, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who fled to India from Chinese rule over Tibet's autonomy in 1959, is due to speak in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Darwin.