BEIJING, June 22 (AP)--On the eve of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, China protested on Wednesday a meeting between U.S. President Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama, accusing Washington of meddling in Chinese affairs.

``China has lodged solemn representations to the United States and expressed deep resentment and firm opposition to'' Tuesday's meeting at the White House, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.

He attacked the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader of Tibet and Nobel Peace Prize winner who fled from Chinese rule into exile 41 years ago. Zhu accused the Dalai Lama of engaging in activities aimed at ``splitting the motherland.''

``The Tibetan affair is purely China's internal affair, which brooks no interference from foreign countries,'' Zhu said in remarks carried by the government-run Xinhua News Agency.

China's often harsh 50-year rule over Tibet has been a persistent irritant in Chinese-U.S. ties. Albright is likely to discuss China's human rights abuses, as well as differences over Taiwan and nascent rapprochement between North and South Korea during talks Thursday with Chinese leaders, diplomats said.

It was unclear whether the tiff over the Dalai Lama would mar Albright's stay, the highest-level visit since relations soured over the U.S. bombing of China's Embassy in Yugoslavia 13 months ago.

Albright arrived at dawn Thursday in Beijing for talks with Chinese leaders. She began her visit by seeing Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan for a luncheon meeting.

After shaking hands with Tang at the Diaoyutai State Guest House, Albright said she had ``lots of things to discuss,'' but did not raise specifics--and Tibet was not mentioned.

She met later in the day with Vice Premier Qian Qichen and then had other meetings scheduled with Premier Zhu Rongji. Albright was due to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin Thursday evening.

Tang's spokesman Zhu Bangzao, told reporters ties had slowly recovered from the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The United States said the bombing, during the conflict over Kosovo, was accidental, but China has been skeptical.

During a Beijing summit two years ago, Clinton urged Jiang to restart talks with the Dalai Lama and the topic came up during the spiritual leader's Washington visit.

The Dalai Lama said Tuesday he was willing to meet Chinese leaders without conditions and urged members of Congress to help initiate the talks.

China routinely objects to contacts between the Dalai Lama and any foreign governments, fearing that the meetings lend him legitimacy.

Despite the high-level reception given the Dalai Lama, Washington has repeatedly stated it recognizes China's sovereignty over Tibet. And Zhu, the Chinese spokesman, reminded the U.S. government of that.

``China urges the U.S. to practice what it preaches, correct its errors and earnestly honor its commitments,'' Zhu said.

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