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Bush to Meet With Dalai Lama Today

October 18, 2007

WASHINGTON, 16 Oct, (AP) — President Bush and the Dalai Lama will meet today with a ceremony planned for tomorrow to award the spiritual leader the
Congressional Gold Medal. China is warning that the events are bad for U.S.-Chinese ties.

The Dalai Lama is the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists. While the Dalai Lama is lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority, Beijing reviles
the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and claims he seeks to destroy China's sovereignty by pushing for independence for Tibet, where the Dalai Lama is considered
a god-king.

The Dalai Lama's special envoy, Lodi Gyari, said images of the U.S. president standing beside the Dalai Lama at the congressional ceremony will send a clear
message that "people do care about Tibet. We have not been forgotten."

"I have no doubt this will give tremendous encouragement and hope to the Tibetan people," he told reporters ahead of the visit. It also "sends a powerful message to
China that the Dalai Lama is not going to go away."

The Dalai Lama says he wants "real autonomy," not independence, for Tibet. But China demonizes the spiritual leader and believes the United States is honoring a
separatist. The Dalai Lama's U.S. visit comes as China holds its important Communist Party congress.

Chinese diplomats have worked doggedly since the U.S. award was voted on last year to get the ceremony and meeting with Bush scrapped and to "correct this
mistake," said Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

"We are certainly very much displeasured and regret the fact that the U.S. side would totally ignore the repeated positions of the Chinese side and go ahead with its
erroneous decision," Wang said in an interview. "Such moves on the U.S. side are not a good thing for the bilateral relationship."

A State Department official said Monday that China was protesting U.S. honors for the Dalai Lama by pulling out of an international strategy session on Iran sought
by the United States and planned for Wednesday.

China objected to participating in the meeting on the day that the Buddhist leader was to receive the congressional honor, said the U.S. official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity to describe another country's motives.

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions. Recent
winners have included civil rights icon Rosa Parks; former President Reagan and his wife, Nancy; cartoonist Charles M. Schulz; Gen. Henry Shelton, and former
British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Congress has long championed the Dalai Lama; lawmakers also regularly criticize Beijing for human rights abuses and a massive military buildup and claims that
China ignores abuse by unsavory foreign regimes in its pursuit of energy deals.

The Bush administration also finds fault with China but is usually more measured as it seeks to manage a booming trade relationship and a desire to enlist Chinese
cooperation on nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran.

Bush has met several times privately with the Dalai Lama, and, analysts say, his decision to attend the public congressional ceremony reflects his worry over the
situation in Tibet.

Judith Shapiro, a China author and professor at American University, says the visit is "not going to profoundly affect ties in either direction. China needs the U.S., the
U.S. needs China, and issues like Tibet are a bit of a sideshow to the basic relationship."

On Monday, dozens of people, some dressed in brightly colored traditional Tibetan robes and hats, greeted the Dalai Lama at a downtown Washington hotel. The
Dalai Lama gave his blessing to people in the crowd and tasted some rice that had been prepared for him.

Bush supports the Dalai Lama's visit, although the White House tried to ameliorate Chinese anger before the Tibetan priest's arrival. Bush told Chinese President Hu
Jintao at a recent meeting that he would be welcoming the spiritual leader to Washington.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino recently told reporters that Bush "understands that the Chinese have concerns about this."

"We would hope that the Chinese leader would get to know the Dalai Lama as the president sees him — as a spiritual leader and someone who wants peace," she

The Dalai Lama is immensely popular in Tibet, which China has ruled with a heavy hand since its communist-led forces invaded in 1951. He has been based in India
since fleeing his Himalayan homeland in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

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