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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Obama aide denies retreat on China rights

October 23, 2009

By Matt Spetalnick
Reuters
October 21, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A top aide to Barack Obama denied on
Wednesday the U.S. president snubbed the Dalai Lama or retreated on
human rights in China by delaying a meeting with the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader earlier this month.

Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett pushed back against Obama's critics
who accused him of bowing to Chinese pressure when he became the
first president in 18 years to refuse to see the Dalai Lama on a
visit to Washington.

"It is not a signal of any lack of commitment to human rights,"
Jarrett said in an interview with Reuters. "That's a ridiculous
conclusion to draw."

Obama opted to hold off on meeting the Dalai Lama until after a
Beijing summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao scheduled for mid-November.

Asked whether that decision was made with an eye to Chinese

sensitivities about Tibet, Jarrett said, "That's a fair point to make."

Critics charged that Obama had sacrificed human rights concerns to
curry favor with the China, which accuses the 74-year-old Buddhist
monk of seeking to separate Tibet from China. Beijing has always
protested loudly against the Dalai Lama's White House visits.

The decision not to meet the Tibetan leader was made amid the Obama
administration's efforts to improve U.S.-China relations on issues
from global warming and international finance to reigning in North
Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The controversy underscored Obama's dilemma in dealing with China, a
growing power and the biggest holder of U.S. debt.

Human rights groups and opposition Republicans have accused Obama of
being soft on China.

"There's no stronger advocate for human rights than President Obama,"
said Jarrett, who led a U.S. delegation on a visit to northern India
in September to see the Dalai Lama to discuss ways to resolve
problems of the Tibetan people.

She said Obama had invited the Dalai Lama to a White House meeting
"as early as December" and will bring up Tibet's plight in his talks
with Hu next month.

"It's a very important relationship and we think that we can
certainly have both," Jarrett said. "The president has a relationship
with the Dalai Lama. He has a relationship with the Chinese."

The president and the Buddhist monk have one thing in common: they
both are Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
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