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Obama meets Dalai Lama, speaks for human rights

Washington, Feb 19 (IANS) Brushing off Chinese warnings, President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama to express his "strong support" for human rights and religious freedom for the people of Tibet while encouraging a direct dialogue with China.



"The president stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated after their meeting Thursday at the White House.

Obama "commended the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' approach, his commitment to non-violence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government," he said after the hour long meeting in the Map Room in the residential wing of the White House.

"The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks," Gibbs said.

"The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China."

Obama, who had failed to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader last year to keep Beijing in good humour ahead of his first state visit to China in November, did not receive the Dalai Lama at his Oval Office to indicate the unofficial nature of the meeting. No cameras were allowed as the two Nobel Peace Prize recipients opened their talks. Dalai Lama has now met every sitting US president since George H. W. Bush in 1991, but none of them received him in the Oval Office.

The White House released only a single official picture. An official photograph was also released after the Dalai Lama met later with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. After the meeting, the Dalai Lama wearing maroon robes of a Tibetan monk and flip-flops in snowy, cold Washington playfully tossed a bit of snow at reporters staking out on the White House grounds and declared himself "very happy" with the visit.

The Dalai Lama said he spoke to the president about the promotion of human values, religious harmony, a greater leadership role for women around the world and the concerns of the Tibetan people, and that Obama was "very much supportive.'

"Since my childhood, I always admired America not as a military power, but mainly as a champion of democracy, freedom, human value, human creativity," the Dalai Lama said.

The Dalai Lama also told Obama "the female is biologically more sensitive about others' pain, others' suffering" and therefore should have more leadership roles. "The president agreed," he said.

Hundreds of Tibetans crowded Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House and waved Tibet's blue, red and yellow flag. They stood in a large circle singing and dancing, many of them in traditional garb as the Dalai Lama arrived for his much awaited meeting.

Later at the State Department, where he held a short news conference, the Dalai Lama chided China for what he called its "childish" and "limited" approach to Tibetan efforts for greater rights. He said he expected a negative Chinese reaction to his meeting with Obama.

His envoy, Lodi Gyari, said Tibetans feeling marginalised by China would get encouragement from the session.

The State Department did not release any statement, but before the meeting spokesman Phillip Crowley told reporters Clinton "will express our support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity.

While the US has ongoing concerns about human rights condition among the Tibetan areas of China, Crowley said, "we consider Tibet to be a part of China, but we will talk about those conditions" and "we are going to speak out forcefully when we have these kinds of concerns."
(News published under the licence from Indo Asian News Service)

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