US denies soft approach to China over Tibet

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Washington, Mar 18: The Bush administration has denied the allegation that the US is pulling its punches with China over the Tibet issue because of the Communist nation's considerable economic and commercial clout.

''We are very concerned about the situation in Tibet. We continue to urge restraint on the part of the Chinese Government in terms of how it responds to these protestors,'' State Department's Deputy spokesman Tom Casey said yesterday. He said the US had consistently called for engagement and dialogue and encouraged the Chinese Government to engage in a substantive conversation with the Dalai Lama directly or through representatives so that the issues involving Tibet can be resolved.

To drive his point home, he drew attention to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statement over the weekend in which she had expressed her concern over the reports of a sharply increased police and military presence in and around Lhasa and called on the Chinese government to exercise restraint in dealing with these protests.

In reply to a question, he said, ''I know that our ambassador and our embassy (in Beijing) have spoken about this to a variety of Chinese officials and continue to be in discussions with them about this.'' '' This certainly is a subject that comes up regularly in our broad conversations with the Chinese. Again, this is an issue that's been out there for a while and that we have discussed with the Chinese over many years. So I know that the embassy has been very actively engaged in discussing this,'' Mr Casey said.

To a similar query, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, '' The administration has certainly been in touch with the Chinese, and we've called on them, as Secretary Rice did on Saturday, to exercise restraint in dealing with the protests, and we've urged an immediate end to the violence so that the people can get back to living a better life. But we're also very, we're just very concerned of the overall long-term prospects of it. So we've been in touch with them.''

UNI

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