BUSH meets with Dalai Lama; China angry

Wednesday, May 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Brushing aside complaints from China, President Bush on Wednesday greeted the Dalai Lama and pledged strong support for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's efforts to establish dialogue with the Chinese government.

China regards Tibet as part of its traditional territory and sees the Dalai Lama as a supporter of Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama said he told Bush he is seeking ``genuine self-rule'' as ``a mutually equitable solution'' for Tibet and China, and Bush shared that approach.

``I assured to him that in the future, whenever the president has an opportunity to meet with the Chinese leader, he can assure the Chinese government I'm not seeking independence,'' the Dalai Lama said.

He said Bush showed him ``very genuine, human, warm feelings. That I very much appreciate.''

After the meeting, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer issued a statement saying Bush ``declared his strong support for the Dalai Lama's tireless efforts to initiate a dialogue with the Chinese government,'' and promised to support preserving the ``unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity, and the protection of the human rights of all Tibetans.''

``The president said he would seek ways to encourage dialogue, and expressed his hope that the Chinese government would respond favorably,'' Fleischer said.

But in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed anger over Wednesday's meeting. Luo Gan, the Communist Party's top cadre for law and order, told a meeting of officials in Beijing that the Dalai Lama is ``traveling further and further down the separatist road,'' state television reported.

In a nod to China, the White House emphasized that Bush was receiving the Dalai Lama as a religious and not a political leader. The two, along with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, met in the White House residence, rather than the Oval or other West Wing offices.

When asked whether Bush was trying to send a signal to China by greeting the spiritual leader more openly than former President Clinton did, Fleischer told reporters, ``It's appropriate to meet with him, and that's why they're doing it.''

Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's special envoy, said the spiritual leader stressed that there would be ``dangerous consequences to the Tibetan identity'' if China's policies toward Tibet go unchanged, and felt encouraged by the reception he received from the Bush administration.

When asked about China's bid for the 2008 Olympics, the Dalai Lama said he would support it if advocates for democracy feel it can lead to more openness in China, but not if it could have a demoralizing, ``world don't care'' effect.

``When I look (at) one problem, I always look from various angles. So sometimes makes me more indecisive,'' the Dalai Lama said.

The Dalai Lama met Tuesday with Secretary of State Colin Powell. The monk told reporters he discussed his ideas about promoting human and religious values and the situation in Tibet.

He said Powell ``listened very keenly'' to the points he raised.

After his meeting with Powell, the Dalai Lama met with Paula Dobriansky, who heads the global affairs bureau of the State Department.

She recently was appointed special coordinator for Tibet, a post mandated by Congress to ensure a voice for Tibetan issues in the administration.

Coincidentally, both the Dalai Lama and Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian were in the United States Tuesday. Chen was making a transit stop en route to Latin America.

Zhu said the American decision to grant entry to the two leaders reflected a toughening stance against China.

Chen arrived Monday in New York and planned to leave Wednesday for Latin America.