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China Fumes at Obama, Dalai Lama Meeting

Thursday, 11 February 2010 10:07 PM

BEIJING — China on Friday urged the United States to call off a meeting between President Barack Obama and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to prevent further damage to already strained ties.

The White House, in defiance of repeated angry Chinese protests in recent days, has said Obama would meet the Dalai Lama next week in Washington, just as the US leader seeks Beijing's help in imposing tough new sanctions on Iran.

Beijing has lodged a solemn representation with Washington, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

"We firmly oppose the Dalai Lama visiting the United States and US leaders having contact with him," Ma said.

"We urge the US side to fully understand the high sensitivity of Tibet-related issues, and honour its commitment to recognise Tibet as part of China and to oppose 'Tibet independence'," he added.

"China urges the US... to immediately call off the wrong decision of arranging for President Obama to meet with the Dalai Lama... to avoid any more damage to Sino-US relations."

Despite political pressure at home, Obama avoided meeting the Dalai Lama when the Buddhist monk was in Washington last year, in an apparent bid to set relations off on a good foot with Beijing early in his presidency.

Obama, however, told Chinese leaders during his trip to Beijing in November that he planned to meet with the Dalai Lama, who is widely respected in the United States but branded a separatist by Beijing.

Obama knows Chinese support is vital if he is to succeed in winning unanimous backing at the UN Security Council for the tough regime of sanctions he wants to impose on Iran for stepping up its suspect nuclear work.

Next week's meeting in Washington comes at a time when Sino-US relations have already soured over the sale of a 6.4-billion-dollar package of US weapons to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as Chinese territory. Related article: China says it has 'no dissidents'

Beijing last week said it "resolutely opposes" the planned visit by the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959, and particularly any meetings with US leaders.

The Dalai Lama, 74, fled his homeland after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. That came nine years after Chinese troops were sent to take control of the region.

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Thursday, 11 February 2010 10:07 PM
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