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Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 14:06 UK

Beijing 'to talk to Dalai aides'

Pro-Tibet protesters in Bangkok, file image
Global leaders have put pressure on China over Tibet

Chinese officials will hold talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives, state media say, in the first meeting since rioting broke out in Tibet last month.

Xinhua news agency quoted an official as saying a meeting would take place "in coming days".

A spokesman for the Tibetan spiritual leader welcomed the offer of talks.

Beijing has consistently blamed what it termed a "Dalai clique" for fomenting unrest in Tibetan areas of China - an allegation he has strenuously denied.

The Dalai Lama insists he has no political role and played no part in the protests.

Olympics demand

Xinhua quoted an unnamed official as saying the government had taken into account "requests repeatedly made by the Dalai side for resuming talks".

"The relevant department of the central government will have contact and consultation with Dalai's private representative in the coming days," the official said.

Pro-Tibet protests blight the Olympic torch relay

But the official added that the Dalai Lama would need to "take credible moves to stop activities aimed at splitting China".

This included putting a stop to "plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games so as to create conditions for talks".

The Dalai Lama's spokesman, Tenzin Takla, told the BBC he had received no official notification from the Chinese government of its desire to meet.

China has held talks with the Dali Lama's representatives before, though meetings have rarely resulted in any progress.

According to Mr Takla, the last round was held in June and July last year in Beijing.

He added that the Dalai Lama had been "making efforts to reach out to the Chinese people and the Chinese leadership" since last month's protests.

'Room for dialogue'

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country has been targeted by nationalist Chinese protesters angered by pro-Tibet rallies in Paris, welcomed the prospect of talks.

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 resumption of dialogue carries some real hope," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Beijing hailed the announcement as a "very positive development".

And EU commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso, who earlier discussed Tibet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, said he was "very happy".

"If the concern of the Dalai Lama is... respect of cultural identity, religious identity and autonomy inside China, I believe there's real room for a dialogue," he said.

Rallies began in the main Tibetan city of Lhasa on 10 March, led by Buddhist monks.

Over the following week protests spread and became violent - particularly in Lhasa where ethnic Chinese were targeted and shops were burnt down.

Beijing cracked down on the protesters with force, sending in hundreds of troops to regain control of the restive areas.




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