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Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Dalai Lama urges Tibet dialogue

Protesters near Hezuo in Gansu tear apart a flag
Gansu protesters tore up China's flag and raised the Tibetan one

Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has called on world leaders to press China to resume a dialogue on Tibet following the wave of violence there.

Earlier UK PM Gordon Brown said China's Premier Wen Jiabao had told him he was open to talks under certain conditions. China continues to move large numbers of troops into Tibet.

Reports have emerged of protests in Chinese provinces bordering Tibet, including Tibetans tearing down a Chinese flag in Gansu province.

On Wednesday, the Dalai Lama also asked Tibetan activists not to undertake a controversial march from India to Lhasa, fearing additional violence.

'Autonomy'

In a letter from his base in exile in Dharamsala, northern India, the Dalai Lama said he was committed to a peaceful solution and sought "the international community's support for our efforts to resolve Tibet's problems through dialogue".

The premier told me that, subject to two things... he would be prepared to enter into dialogue
Gordon Brown

"I urge them to call upon the Chinese leadership to exercise the utmost restraint in dealing with the current disturbed situation and to treat those who are being arrested properly and fairly."

Mr Brown told the UK parliament that Mr Wen had told him there could be dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

"The premier told me that, subject to two things that the Dalai Lama has already said - that he does not support the total independence of Tibet and that he renounces violence that he would be prepared to enter into dialogue," Mr Brown said.

He said he had told Mr Wen that he would meet the Dalai Lama during a visit to London in May and that the violence in Tibet must end.

TIBETAN PROTESTS
Map
Tibet: Protests began in Lhasa on 10 March, dozens reported dead over weekend
Gansu: Unrest spread to Machu, where Tibetan government in exile says 19 died, and near Hezuo, where protesters were filmed tearing down Tibetan flag
Sichuan: Reports of riots and casualties in Aba, and of unrest in other locations
Qinghai: Other unrest reported

Thubten Samphel, of the Tibetan government-in-exile, told the BBC: "If Wen Jiabao is willing to open a dialogue, this is the best possible solution."

On China's terms for talks, Mr Samphel said that the Tibetan struggle had remained non-violent mainly because of the Dalai Lama's guidance.

Mr Samphel added that the Dalai Lama had made it clear he would not push for Tibetan independence.

"He would like to have the whole of Tibet, inhabited by six million Tibetan people, come under one single administration which enjoys general autonomy," Mr Samphel said.

Chinese officials have been engaged in on-off contacts with Tibetan exiles for 30 years. The last talks were in July last year.

The BBC's Jill McGivering says the current crisis may force China's leaders in Beijing to rethink their strategy for the region.

She says Beijing may consider reducing the pressure through such measures as limiting migration, giving equal status to the Tibetan language and allowing Tibetans a greater say in decision-making.

Deadline

Protests began in Lhasa on 10 March, on the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, and gradually escalated.

TIBET DIVIDE
China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
1950: China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India

The Tibetan government in exile says 99 people have died in clashes with security forces - including 80 in Lhasa.

Chinese officials say only 13 people died - and they were killed during riots by Dalai Lama supporters.

Chinese state media said more than 100 people turned themselves in to police in Lhasa after being threatened with harsh punishment if they failed to meet a Monday deadline.

But serious unrest has been reported in provinces close to Tibet with large ethnic Tibetan populations.

Video has emerged from Gansu showing Tibetans tearing down a Chinese flag and replacing it with a Tibetan one.

Hundreds of protesters can be seen on foot and horseback in Tuesday's incident at a school near Hezuo, captured by a Canadian film crew.

The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said three people had been killed by security forces in Garze, Sichuan province.

On Wednesday the Dalai Lama met groups organising the controversial march from Dharamsala to Lhasa and told them he feared there would be clashes with Chinese troops on the border.

Tenzin Taklha, a senior aide, said: "His Holiness appealed to [them] to end their protest march to Tibet."

BBC correspondents say there has been a significant increase in the number of military convoys heading into Tibet from neighbouring regions.

Despite the crisis, Chinese officials said that the Olympic torch - which will be carried across China ahead of the Games - will still go through Tibet.

It is due to be carried to the top of Mount Everest in May, and to pass through Lhasa in June.




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