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EU urges China talks with Dalai Lama as spiritual leader offers Tibet emissaries

April 25, 2008

TOKYO April 24, 2008 (AFP) — The European Union said Thursday it will
press China in talks this week to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai
Lama to bring about "concrete improvement" in people's lives in restive

An EU delegation including European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso
is holding two days of talks from Thursday with President Hu Jintao and
other Chinese leaders.

The EU calls come after Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama sent a
letter on March 19 to China's President Hu Jintao offering to send
emissaries to Tibet to calm down tensions following Beijing's crackdown,
the Dalai Lama's special envoy said on Wednesday.

"His Holiness expressed his deepest concerns about the situation (in
Tibet) and offered to send his emissaries to help calm the situation and
explain to Tibetans," envoy Lodi Gyari told reporters in Washington.

Trade frictions and the fight against climate change are set to be the
top issues in the China-EU summit, which was scheduled before unrest
broke out last month in Tibet against Beijing's controversial rule.

But Tibet will also be "high on the agenda," EU External Relations
Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters in Tokyo before
leaving for Beijing.

"Our message to the Chinese government will certainly be, 'engage in a
constructive and in a substantial dialogue which addresses the core
issues,'" she said, calling for "high-level" talks with the Dalai Lama.

"What is the core issue for us? It is how to achieve concrete
improvement of the situation of the Tibetans," she said.

China was also holding high-level talks Thursday with France after
relations were soured, in part by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's
threats to shun the opening of the Beijing Olympics in August.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, fled in 1959 to northern India
after a failed uprising against China's controversial rule of the
Himalayan region.

China has accused the 72-year-old monk of stirring up major protests
last month in Tibet in a bid to scuttle the Beijing Olympics and has
bristled at pro-Tibet demonstrations during the Olympic torch's
worldwide relay.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, advocates non-violence and
says he is seeking greater autonomy and cultural freedoms for Tibet
within China.

"Of course we understand the sensitivity on sovereignty in China, but I
think it is also fair to ask to respect the Tibetans' culture and also
their traditions," Ferrero-Waldner said.

"We indeed support a peaceful reconciliation between the Chinese
authorities and the Dalai Lama and his representatives," she said. "This
can be made through a sincere dialogue."

China opened a dialogue with envoys from the Dalai Lama in 2002 but the
talks yielded few results.

The Dalai Lama's chief envoy, Lodi Gyari, said Wednesday in Washington
that the exiled Tibetan leader has written a letter to China's President
Hu Jintao offering to send emissaries to help calm the situation.

The Western reaction to the unrest has led to a strong backlash in China.

Ferrero-Waldner said that Chinese calls to boycott the French
supermarket chain Carrefour were "going too far."

"If there is a conflict or a crisis, normally the population closes
ranks behind you," Ferrero-Waldner said.

"I think the Chinese authorities have tried to somewhat constrain or
restrict this nationalism and I think this is responsible behaviour
because it should certainly not get out of hand," she said.
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