US tells China that it regards Dalai Lama as significant leader

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Washington, Oct 16 (UNI) The Bush administration has told China that the US regards the Dalai Lama as ''a very important and significant spiritual leader and that is how we treat his visits here to the United States.'' State Department spokesman Tom Casey made this comment yesterday when his attention was drawn to Chinese Government's reported objection to US Congress awarding Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor, to the Tibetan spiritual leader.

President Bush will also be present at the tomorrow's ceremony on Capitol Hill where Dalai Lama will be honored. This will be the first time a sitting US President will appear with the Dalai Lama at a public event.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman last week objected to the proposed honor, saying China opposed any country or person using the Dalai Lama to interfere in its internal affairs. China accuses him of separatist activities.

State Department spokesman Casey, however, said, ''there is nothing about the decision by the Congress to award this medal to him (Dalai Lama) that changes that[United States'] basic view. This is certainly an issue that the Chinese raise with us from time to time. I'm not sure at what level or how they have done so in this particular instance.'' The Tibetan spiritual leader will meet President Bush in here today before receiving the Congressional medal.

The President also plans to meet privately with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on Tuesday at the White House.

White House spokesperson Dana Perino had said last week that the Dalai Lama's visit to the United States should come as no surprise, since President Bush discussed the issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asian Pacific Economic Summit in Austraila earlier this month.

The Congressional Gold Medal is being awarded to the Dalai Lama to recognize what Congress called ''his many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, nonviolence, human rights and religious understanding.'' The medal's past recipients include Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.

Dalai Lama's special envoy Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari said, ''honouring his Holiness with the Congressional gold medal is a strong endorsement of the Dalai Lama's tireless commitment to enhancing the principles of non-violence, religious harmony, tolerance and promoting a sense of universal responsibility.'' The bill to award the Congressional gold medal to the Dalai Lama was passed by the Congress on September 13, 2006 and signed into law by President Bush on September 28, 2006.


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