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Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 10:24 UK

Obama 'snubs' Dalai Lama meeting

Dalai Lama
China considers the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist

US President Barack Obama has been accused of bowing to Chinese pressure by delaying a meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Mr Obama has said he will not meet the Dalai Lama, who is currently in the US, until after visiting China in November.

But human rights activists and some US lawmakers accused Mr Obama of putting economic issues first - a move the White House denied.

China, which took over Tibet in 1950, considers the Dalai Lama a separatist.

Beijing also demands that other nations do not meet the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising.

'Wrong message'

Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican lawmaker on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the White House was "kowtowing" to Beijing by delaying a meeting with the spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama has always been supportive of American engagement with China
Dalai Lama's envoy Lodi Gyari

Her words were echoed by Leonard Leo, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, who described the Obama administration's decision as "a strategic snub".

He said it sent "the wrong message to Beijing and to China's religious communities and rights activists".

Both Washington and the Dalai Lama's envoy played down the significance of delaying the meeting.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the Dalai Lama would meet the new US co-ordinator for Tibet, Maria Otero, during his current trip.

And Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's envoy, said the spiritual leader took "a broader and long-term perspective" that it was better to meet Mr Obama after his talks in China.

"The Dalai Lama has always been supportive of American engagement with China," Lodi Gyari said in a statement.

"Our hope is that the co-operative US-Chinese relationship that President Obama's administration seeks will create conditions that support the resolution of the legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people."

The Dalai Lama, who is 74, arrived in Washington on Monday. He will spend a week in the US capital after travelling around North America for a fortnight giving spiritual teachings.

The spiritual leader has met all serving US presidents since George Bush in 1991.



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