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Bush Supports Dalai Lama's Efforts to Dialogue

Bush Supports Dalai Lama's Efforts to Start Dialogue with Beijing


Bush Supports Dalai Lama's Efforts to Start Dialogue with Beijing (Bush, Dalai Lama met in Residence of White House May 23)
By Wendy S. Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- President Bush met with the Dalai Lama in the Residence of the White House the morning of May 23 and pledged support for efforts to open a dialogue with the Beijing government.

"The President commended the Dalai Lama's commitment to nonviolence and declared his strong support for the Dalai Lama's tireless efforts to initiate a dialogue with the Chinese government," the White House said in a statement following the 30-minute meeting.

"The President said he would seek ways to encourage dialogue and expressed his hope that the Chinese government would respond favorably," the statement continues.

According to the statement, President Bush "also reiterated the strong commitment of the United States to support the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of the human rights of all Tibetans."

"The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of strong and constructive U.S.-China relations," the statement says.

President Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice also attended the May 23 meeting with the Dalai Lama.

As he left the White House, the Dalai Lama told reporters that he is not seeking independence for Tibet, but rather "genuine self-rule" for it. He said the meeting with Bush was "basically the same" as meetings he has held with previous U.S. presidents.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters that Bush considers the Dalai Lama "an important spiritual and religious leader" and thought the Residence "was an appropriate place to have the meeting."

Fleischer noted that Bush "is maintaining the longstanding tradition" of U.S. presidents meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Previous presidents "have met with the Dalai Lama. So there's no change in United States policy," he said.

"Tibet is not seeking, and is not viewed as an independent nation," Fleischer said. "Tibet is a part of China."

According to State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker, the Dalai Lama met May 22 with Secretary of State Colin Powell, then attended "a lengthier meeting" with Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage. Both meetings together lasted about an hour, Reeker told reporters at his May 23 briefing.

Reeker said that Paula Dobriansky, the U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues and under secretary of state for global affairs, was present at both meetings. The position of U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues is mandated by the U.S. Congress.

"The meetings provided an opportunity to exchange views with the Dalai Lama about the situation in Tibet, and Secretary Powell expressed our strong interest in working to protect Tibet's unique cultural, linguistic and religious heritage and in seeing respect for religious freedom there in Tibet, something we have often talked about," Reeker said.

"So, as usual, as has been our practice, we met with the Dalai Lama as a spiritual and religious" leader, "as we have in many previous meetings with him. He is also a Nobel Laureate, and we enjoy the opportunity to exchange thoughts and views with him," he continued.

In response to a question, Reeker noted that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing called in the U.S. charge d'affairs on May 23 to deliver China's objection to the Dalai Lama's visit.

Reeker made clear that the visit of the Dalai Lama is consistent with long-standing U.S. policy of meeting with him as a spiritual and religious leader.

"We've certainly heard the Chinese views before on that subject," he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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