Bush urges China to hold talks with the Dalai Lama

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WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) President George W Bush defended today his plan to appear at an award ceremony for the Dalai Lama in the face of Chinese protests and urged Beijing to open talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader China views as a separatist.

''I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation's interest. I've also told them that I think that it's in their interest to meet with the Dalai Lama and will say so at the ceremony today in Congress,'' Bush told a news conference hours before the Dalai Lama is to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the country's highest civilian award.

REUTERS RSA RAI2054

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