Obama invites Dalai Lama to White House

Barack Obama
Washington, Jul 16: President Barack Obama will today (Jul 16) meet the Dalai Lama, defying Chinese pressure to shun the Tibetan spiritual leader.

"This meeting underscores the President's strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans," a White House statement said.

Obama last met the Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace laureate, in February 2010. On Saturday's meeting is scheduled to be held at the Map Room of the White House and not his Oval office where he welcomes heads of state. The meeting is closed for the press.

"The President will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences," the statement said.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement that China opposes any foreign official meeting with the Dalai Lama and asked the US to withdraw its invitation to avoid interfering in China's internal affairs.

The Dalai Lama, who is living in exile since 1959, says he is peacefully seeking rights for Tibetans and accepts Chinese rule. But China insists that he is a "splittist" bent on dividing the country.

"The meeting is an opportunity to deepen the relationship between the American and Tibetan peoples and for the President to reaffirm US," said Mary Beth, president of the International Campaign for Tibet. 

"Support for Tibetan issues, including the Dalai Lama's efforts to re-engage the Chinese government in meaningful dialogue on genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the People's Republic of China," Beth said.

The White House announcement comes just two days before the Dalai Lama concludes his 10-day visit to Washington, where he has been presiding over a major Buddhist teaching, the Kalachakra.

During his time in Washington, the Dalai Lama met with Speaker of the House John Boehner, Democratic Leader Pelosi, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, John Kerry, as well as other officials and dignitaries.


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