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China confirms meeting with Dalai Lama envoys

July 3, 2008

The International Herald Tribune (France)/Reuters
July 3, 2008

BEIJING -- China confirmed on Thursday that a senior communist Party
official had met envoys of the Dalai Lama and offered to hold a new
round of talks before the end of the year if Tibet's spiritual leader
displayed "positive behaviour".

China has accused the Dalai Lama of instigating riots in Tibet in
March, a charge he has repeatedly denied.

In the first official Chinese statement about the talks this week,
the official Xinhua news agency said Du Qinglin, head of the Party's
United Front Work Department, which deals with ethnic minorities and
religious groups, had "met with private representatives of the 14th
Dalai Lama here recently".

It was the highest level meeting since dialogue resumed in 2002 and
the second closed-door meeting the rioting in March.

The unrest heaped international pressure on China to deal with the
Nobel laureate, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an
abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

"We have no information as of now on how the talks went, but we do
expect the envoys to be here tomorrow afternoon and then they will
hold a meeting with his Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and tell us what
exactly happened," Chhime Chhoekyapa, a Dalai Lama aide, told Reuters
by telephone.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said his decision on whether to
attend the Beijing Olympics would be based on whether he sees
progress in the Tibet talks. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu
Jianchao said Tibet was a domestic issue.

The current round of talks was delayed by three weeks in the wake of
China's deadliest earthquake in three decades.

The Dalai Lama says he wants autonomy for the Himalayan region. But
China is unconvinced and brands him a separatist.

During a trip to Britain in May, he said he was willing to attend the
August 8-24 Beijing Olympics if talks between his envoys and China
yielded results. He did not elaborate.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley and Benjamin Kang Lim and Bappa Majumdar
in Dharamsala; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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