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Bush to Attend Dalai Lama's Ceremony

October 17, 2007

WASHINGTON, October 11 (AP) - Risking heightened tensions with China,
 President Bush will attend a ceremony to award Congress' highest
 civilian honor to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader whom
 Beijing reviles as a separatist.

Bush will go to the Capitol on Wednesday to speak at the presentation
 of the Congressional Gold Medal, whose recipients have included Mother
 Teresa, former South African President Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II
 and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The president also will welcome the Dalai
 Lama in the White House residence Tuesday.

Beijing expressed its unhappiness about honoring the Dalai Lama, the
 winner of the 1989 Peace Prize.

``China resolutely opposes the U.S. Congress awarding the Dalai its
 so-called Congressional Gold Medal, and firmly opposes any country or any
 person using the Dalai issue to interfere in China's internal
 affairs,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a news conference in

Liu said China had ``presented a representation'' to Washington over
 Congress' move, but gave no details.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Bush will say that ``the Dalai Lama is a
 great spiritual leader whose aim is for the Tibetan people to be able to
 worship freely and to protect their land, but that they are not
 seeking independence from China,'' National Security Council spokesman Gordon
 Johndroe said. ``The leaders of China should get to know the Dalai
 Lama like we've gotten to know him.''

The Dalai Lama will be honored for his ``many enduring and outstanding
 contributions to peace, nonviolence, human rights, and religious

The Dalai Lama has been based in India since fleeing his Himalayan
 homeland in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He remains
 immensely popular among Tibetans, despite persistent efforts to demonize
 him by Beijing, which objects vigorously to all overseas visits by the
 Dalai Lama.

China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, but many
 Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that period.

In its announcement, Congress said that the Dalai Lama was ``recognized
 in the United States and throughout the world as a leading figure of
 moral and religious authority.''

It praised him for fighting for democracy, freedom, and Tibet's
 cultural heritage, saying he promoted peace for Tibet ``through a negotiated
 settlement of the Tibet issue, based on autonomy within the People's
 Republic of China.''

The Dalai Lama insists he wants ``real autonomy,'' not independence for
 Tibet, but Beijing continues to accuse him of seeking to split the
 region from China.

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