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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Bush welcomes Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama will be in the region for more than three weeks
US President George W Bush has welcomed the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to the White House.

The visit comes despite China protesting that the spiritual leader was involved in "separatist" activity and calling on the US to abide by what it said was a US pledge to recognise Tibet as part of China.

It is the second visit to the White House for the Dalai Lama, who last met Mr Bush in 2001.

He told journalists that seeing Mr Bush had been like meeting an old friend and said that the US leader had shown genuine interest and sympathy.

The Dalai Lama will be in the US for three weeks and has already met US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

He is expected to hold a lecture on "peace as an antidote to violence" on Thursday at Washington's National Cathedral.

It will coincide with the second anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Tibetan 'autonomy'

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 - eight years after Beijing's communist troops occupied Tibet - following an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

He now heads what he calls a government-in-exile in the mountain town of Dharmsala in India.

Tibet's new governor said in August that the Dalai Lama may return to Tibet only as a Chinese citizen and only if he renounces all notions of independence.

The Dalai Lama has said that he is not looking for Tibetan independence, but for real autonomy within China.

But he has said that he will not return to Tibet if China sets any pre-conditions.


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