Page last updated at 23:14 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Dalai Lama meets Obama in US amid China anger

The Dalai Lama on meeting Obama

US President Barack Obama has expressed his support for Tibetan rights in talks held at the White House with the Dalai Lama despite objections from China.

The meeting comes amid tension in US-Sino relations, with disputes simmering over US arms sales to Taiwan, claims of Chinese cyber-spying and trade deals.

China, which views the Dalai Lama as a separatist, said the meeting was a "violation of US policy on Tibet".

The US downplayed China's concerns but kept the meeting low key.

The closed talks were held at the White House's Map Room instead of the more official Oval Office, in an attempt to signal to China that it was a private, not a political meeting.

'Champion of democracy'

Afterwards, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president expressed his "strong support" for Tibetan identity and the protection of Tibetans' human rights in China.

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Mr Obama praised the Dalai Lama's commitment to nonviolence and "his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government," the spokesman said.

Despite American attempts to keep the visit low profile, the Dalai Lama spoke to reporters immediately outside the West Wing of the White House in comments that were broadcast live on international television.

He said he told Mr Obama of his admiration for the US as a "champion of democracy, freedom, human values" and creativity.

The White House had defended the decision to receive the Dalai Lama, saying he was "an internationally respected religious leader".

Mr Obama avoided meeting the Dalai Lama in Washington last year ahead of his own first state visit to Beijing.

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China's foreign ministry quickly condemned the meeting.

Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying: "The US act grossly violated the norms governing international relations.

"It also went against the repeated commitments by the US government that the US recognises Tibet as part of China and gives no support to 'Tibet independence'."

The foreign ministry had warned the US to call off the Dalai Lama's visit to "avoid any more damage to Sino-US relations".

It said it now expected Mr Obama to take steps to put relations back on track.

China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950 but has long claimed it as its own, considers the Dalai Lama a separatist. Beijing tries to isolate the spiritual leader by asking foreign leaders not to see him.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and has since been living in India.

Relations between the US and China have become frayed in recent months with US arms sales to Taiwan, a row over internet censorship and US criticisms that China holds its currency artificially weak to boost its exports.

The Dalia Lama has met every sitting US president since 1991, with each visit drawing Chinese ire.

But George W Bush's meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2007 was the first time a sitting US president had appeared in public with the exiled Tibetan leader.

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CNN U.S., Dalai Lama meeting angers China - 27 mins ago
Financial TimesChina riled by Obama's Dalai Lama meeting - 31 mins ago
Chicago Tribune Obama's meeting with Dalai Lama hews to protocol -- though not in China's eyes - 1 hr ago
Al Jazeera China anger at US over Dalai Lama - 2 hrs ago
Philippine Daily Inquirer Obama offers support for Tibet, Dalai Lama - 8 hrs ago
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