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Obama Dalai Lama meeting 'on' despite Chinese protest


Date: Wednesday, 03-February-2010
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BBC
February 2, 2010

US President Barack Obama intends to go aheadwith plans to meet the Dalai Lama despitewarnings from China not to, a White House spokesman has said.

Mr Obama told China's leaders last year inBeijing that he would meet with the Tibetanspiritual leader, White House spokesman Bill Burton said.
China has warned that ties with the US would beundermined if the meeting takes place.

No date has been set but it is expected to take place later this month.

"The president told China's leaders during histrip last year that he would meet with the DalaiLama and he intends to do so," White Housespokesman Bill Burton told reporters.

"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respectedreligious and cultural leader and the presidentwill meet with him in that capacity," he said.

The comments came after Communist Party officialZhu Weiqun said such a meeting would "threatentrust and co-operation" between Beijing and Washington.

'Tibetan separatist'

Relations between the world's largest andthird-largest economies have already beenstrained by trade disputes, US arms sales toTaiwan and a row over internet censorship.

China, which took over Tibet in 1950, considersthe Dalai Lama a separatist and tries to isolatethe spiritual leader by asking foreign leaders not to see him.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a faileduprising against Chinese rule and has been living in India since then.

Mr Obama declined to see the Dalai Lama last yearwhen he visited the US, saying he would meet him later.

A White House spokesman said last month that thetwo men intended to meet when the Tibetan monkvisited Washington later in February.

"If the US leader chooses to meet with the DalaiLama at this time, it will certainly threatentrust and co-operation between China and theUnited States," said Mr Zhu, executive deputyminister of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department.

"We oppose any attempt by foreign forces tointerfere in China's internal affairs using theDalai Lama as an excuse," he said.

Mr Zhu was speaking at a press conference todiscuss the recent five-day visit to China by the Dalai Lama's representatives.

The Tibetans repeated their hopes for greaterautonomy for the Himalayan region, but Mr Zhusaid there was no possibility of the "slightestcompromise" on the issue of sovereignty in Tibet.

The two sides have held a number of meetings on Tibet's status since 2002.

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