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Obama-Dalai Lama meet shows US concern for Tibet, say exiles

Dharamsala, Feb 12 (Calcutta Tube) The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in this Himachal Pradesh hill station, says the meeting scheduled between their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and US President Barack Obama indicates Americans’ concern for Tibet.

‘We are seeing it (the meeting) as the concern of the Americans towards the cause of Tibet,’ Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary at the Dalai Lama’s office, told IANS.

US authorities Thursday confirmed that Obama will meet the Dalai Lama Feb 18 at the White House despite China’s stern warning that Sino-US ties would be damaged if US leaders meet the spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama’s 10-day US tour begins Feb 17 and he will visit Washington, Los Angeles and Florida.

Obama had postponed a meeting with the Nobel laureate last September, not wanting to annoy China ahead of his visit to Beijing.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesperson for the government-in-exile, said there is nothing unusual or wrong in the Dalai Lama-Obama meeting as the spiritual leader has met many former US presidents.

‘Since George H.W. Bush (1991), His Holiness has met all the US presidents. He has met several times Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. There is nothing unusual in the scheduled meeting,’ Samphel said.

‘We are hopeful that this meeting would felicitate a meaningful dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and the Chinese. So there is nothing wrong in a meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama,’ he said.

The spiritual leader has met Obama before he became president.

Obama’s aides met the Dalai Lama here in September last year and apprised him on the best way the US could assist in the resolution of the Tibetan issue.

The officials, led by White House advisor Valerie Jarrett, briefed the Dalai Lama about the US approach to the issue.

‘She (Jarrett) reiterated President Obama’s commitment to support the Tibetan people in protecting their distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural heritage and securing respect for their human rights and civil liberties,’ said an official statement of the Dalai Lama’s office regarding the US officials’ visit.

The delegation, comprising US State Department Under Secretary Maria Otero, was the highest official-level group to visit this town since the March 2008 visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Sources in the Dalai Lama’s office said he would apprise Obama about the recently concluded ninth round of talks between the exiles and Chinese officials. Since 2002, both sides have held nine rounds of talks to try and find a solution to the Tibetan issue.

The spiritual leader, who believes in a ‘middle-path’ policy that demands ‘greater autonomy’ for the Tibetans, is also likely meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pelosi.

The Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959. Around 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, most of them in India.

The Dalai Lam established his government-in-exile at McLeodganj near here. It is not recognised by any country.

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