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Dalai Lama to visit White House `later this month`

Last Updated: Friday, February 5, 2010 - 11:39

Washington: The United States risked inflaming a row on multiple fronts with China, saying the Dalai Lama would visit the White House later this month despite Beijing`s fierce protests.
But as tensions built over President Barack Obama`s planned welcome for Tibet`s spiritual leader, officials sought to douse a running row with Beijing, saying the two sides had common interests despite mounting disagreements.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was pressed by reporters to name the date when the Dalai Lama would make his long-expected White House visit.

"He will be here later this month," Gibbs said, but could not be more precise, adding he did not know if the Dalai Lama would be granted the potent symbolism of an Oval Office visit with media availability.

US presidents have sometimes used a diplomatic tactic known as a "drop by" to see leaders or dignitaries likely to anger or embarrass key foreign powers, fitting in a visit in between scheduled talks between the visitor and another top official.

As China mounts fierce advance protests against the visit, Gibbs said Obama had informed Chinese President Hu Jintao when they met in Beijing in November that he would go ahead with the meeting.

Obama had declined to meet the Dalai Lama, who was in the United States late last year, before going to China, in an apparent bid to get his ties with Beijing off on the right foot.

The Chinese government on Wednesday said it "resolutely opposes" the Dalai Lama`s visit to the United States and any of his meetings with US leaders.

"We urge the US side to clearly recognise the high sensitivity of the Tibet issue and handle related issues carefully and appropriately to avoid causing more harm to Sino-US ties," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.

The Dalai Lama will visit Washington from February 17, according to his office in India where the monk fled into exile in 1959.

The Dalai Lama says he is seeking greater rights for Tibetans within Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of separatism.

The United States says it regards Tibet as part of China, but accuses Beijing of serious human rights abuses in the region.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, February 5, 2010 - 11:39
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