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Associated Press – June 30, 2008
BEIJING – The Dalai Lama called for “tangible progress” in talks with China beginning Tuesday, as international pressure builds for the two sides to ease tensions following anti-government riots that rocked Tibet.
The Tibetan spiritual leader’s envoys Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen will meet Chinese officials in Beijing for two days of talks beginning Tuesday, said Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharmsala, India.
“This will be the continuation of the formal dialogue which started in 2002,” he said.
The meetings follow informal talks held in early May in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen that ended with an offer from Beijing for future discussions.
“His holiness the Dalai Lama has instructed the envoys to make every effort to bring about tangible progress to alleviate the difficult situation for Tibetans in their homeland,” a statement from the Dalai Lama’s office said.
China said an invitation had been extended to the Dalai Lama, but gave no other details.
The Dalai Lama is lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority, but Beijing demonizes the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and says he seeks to destroy China’s sovereignty by pushing for independence for Tibet.
China has governed Tibet with an iron fist since communist troops marched into the Himalayan region in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising in 1959, has said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.
Pressure has been growing on both sides to improve relations in the wake of the riots and protests that hit the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and other areas of China with Tibetan populations in March.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who ended two days of meetings in China on Monday, said she was encouraged by the new round of talks and urged China to sincerely engage the Dalai Lama.
“We think he’s a very positive figure in dealing with the very difficult issue of Tibet,” Rice said.
Some experts believe Beijing is agreeing to the discussions to ease criticism ahead of the Olympic Games that begin Aug. 8 in the Chinese capital.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who left open the possibility of boycotting the opening ceremony after China cracked down on the March protests, said Monday he would attend if the Tibet talks made progress.
China has been accused of using heavy-handed tactics in quelling the anti-government riots and protests in Tibet. Beijing says 22 people died in the violence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, while foreign Tibet supporters say many times that number were killed in the protests and a subsequent government crackdown.

Associated Press writer Ashwini Bhatia in Dharmsala, India, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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