Beijing, Sept 16--(AFP) China's officials in Tibet have met with an envoy of exiled Tibetan head the Dalai Lama, a senior official said Monday, amid growing optimism that Beijing will resume contacts with the spiritual leader.

Leg Qog, chairman of the Tibet regional government, told reporters visiting Tibet that he held talks with the Dalai Lama's special envoy to the United States, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, for an hour Sunday.

Leg Qog said he informed Gyari of the changes and economic development in Tibet in the past 50 years and said Gyari, who has not seen Tibet in decades, was impressed. The meeting came amid growing hopes Beijing will resume contacts with the exiled Tibetan leader which were broken off in 1993.

China has accused the Dalai Lama of attempting to "split China," and has been incensed with the Dalai Lama's activities on the international stage in publicizing the plight of Tibet, especially after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Gyari was part of a senior four-person Tibetan delegation to build links with the Chinese government. He arrived in Tibet on Friday. The Tibetan Information Network (TIN) human rights group has described Gyari's trip as having the potential to bring about important changes in the relationship between the exiled Dalai Lama and Chinese authorities. "The visit could be highly significant, since there has been no formal contact between the Dalai Lama and Beijing since the summer of 1993 when contact was suspended," TIN said in a statement Saturday.

TIN added that "there have been recent signs of very subtle movement on the part of the authorities, including the early releases of six high-profile Tibetan political prisoners in the early months of this year."

TIN said a visit in July to Beijing and Tibet by the Dalai Lama's elder brother, Gyalo Thondup, was another sign that Chinese authorities could be considering reopening dialogue with the exiled leader.

The Dalai Lama's exiled government in Dharamsala, India, last week also welcomed China's overture and said the delegation's mission was to build a dialogue and relationship with Chinese authorities.

Leg Qog also told reporters Monday that the Chinese government plans to spend over 90 billion yuan (about 10.8 billion US dollars) in Tibet during the country's 10th five-year plan period (2001-2005). Part of the money will be spent on projects to improve the infrastructure and standard of living, he said.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after an abortive uprising in 1959 and established a government-in-exile.

China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951, has been accused of trying to wipe out its Buddhist-based culture through political and religious repression and a flood of ethnic Chinese immigration.

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