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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Dalai heads for Obama meet

February 18, 2010

Agence France Presse (AFP)
February 17, 2010

NEW DELHI, Feb 17 - Tibet's exiled spiritual
leader the Dalai Lama headed Wednesday for the
United States and a long-awaited meeting with
President Barack Obama that has infuriated China.

For the 74-year-old Dalai Lama -- vilified by
Beijing as a "wolf in monk's robes" --
recognition by the White House is crucial to
maintaining a critical international spotlight on
Chinese treatment of his Himalayan homeland.

The Obama administration has stressed that the
president is receiving the Dalai Lama as a
spiritual rather than political leader, and the
meeting will take place in the White House Map Room and not the Oval Office.

But such diplomatic nuances will do little to
dampen the Tibetan's enthusiasm and are not expected to mollify Chinese anger.

"The most important thing is that the meeting is
taking place," the Dalai Lama's spokesman Tenzin
Taklha said before leaving India with the Buddhist leader.

Dismissing Beijing's denunciation of the White
House get-together as "routine rhetoric," Taklha
said the Chinese government's real concern was negative world opinion.

"No matter what China says, China cares about
international opinion," he told AFP.

"The president's meeting with His Holiness is an
expression of the international community's
concern and it sends a strong signal to the
Chinese that they need to work with us to reach a solution," he added.

Obama had avoided a meeting with the Dalai Lama
last year in hopes of starting off his
relationship on a good foot with China, which
presses nations to ostracise the internationally respected Buddhist monk.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in
1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese
rule. He denies China's assertion that he wants
independence for Tibet, insisting he is looking only for "meaningful autonomy."

Taklha said the Nobel peace laureate would brief
Obama on the situation in Tibet and the latest
talks between his envoys and the Chinese authorities.

The talks in China in January -- the first
between the two sides since November 2008 --
marked the ninth round of a dialogue that has
yielded no tangible progress in eight years.

Many observers believe the Chinese are simply
stringing the Tibetan exiles along until the
Dalai Lama dies, on the assumption that the
Tibetan movement will wither without him.

"The Dalai Lama and the people around him have
refused to realise this and that the talks have a
strategic value for China," said Elliot Sperling,
an expert on Tibet at Indiana University.

"They're useful for thwarting criticisms as to
why the Chinese government isn't talking to the Dalai Lama," Sperling said.

In the absence of any movement in direct
negotiations, White House support for the Dalai
Lama and the leverage that brings assumes even more importance.

And the Dalai Lama's secretary Chhime Chhoekyapa
said it also sent a comforting signal to those living in Tibet.

"They will feel encouraged that the president of
the United States, a global superpower, is
meeting with His Holiness. It means the world has
not forgotten them," Chhoekyapa said.

In a Lunar New Year address in Dharamshala -- the
seat of his exiled government in northern India
-- the Dalai Lama made no mention of his US
visit, but asked exiled Tibetan to refrain from
celebrations and "mark the year as a year of
remembrance of Tibetan people's suffering."
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