Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said that in the meeting held over the weekend, James Jeffrey, the US ambassador, had pressed for China to begin a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

 

The Dalai Lama, who Beijing accuses of instigating unrest, has called on Tibetans to stop fighting and has repeated his insistence that he does not seek Tibet's independence from China.

 

Ongoing unrest

 

Protests, meanwhile, have been continuing in ethnic Tibetan regions of China in support of demonstrations earlier this month in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

 

On Tuesday a report in the state-run Tibet Daily said 13 people had been arrested for their role in what it said was a "reactionary demonstration" in Lhasa.

 

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Earlier China's state-run Xinhua news agency said a police officer was killed during a protest in Garze prefecture in Sichuan province, home to a large number of ethic Tibetans.

 

Clashes between authorities and rioters armed with knives and stones in the western Chinese province also reportedly injured "several others", the agency said.

 

In a report on Monday, Xinhua said that 381 people involved in protests in another Sichuan county, Aba, had surrendered to police.

 

Aba was the site of several days of protests in the past week.

 

Sympathy protests

 

The report by China's official news agency appeared to confirm that sympathy protests in support of demonstrations inside Tibet have continued to spread in nearby areas, despite a massive mobilisation of troops and police.

 

Citing sources in Garze, the Tibet Support Group - a human rights body founded by exiled Tibetans - said that a monk and a farmer were also killed in the unrest.

 

China has accsued the Dalai Lama of
instigating the violence [AFP]

Another group, the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, said that a crowd of about 200 monks, nuns and ordinary citizens, had taken part in the march, chanting "Long live the Dalai Lama" and "Freedom for Tibet".

 

Citing sources in the area it said that protesters clashed with armed police who fired into the crowd, killing one monk and leaving another in critical condition.

 

The protests in Tibet and nearby areas are the biggest challenge to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region in almost two decades.

 

Initial protests in Lhasa marking the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising exploded in violence on March 14.

 

As security forces moved onto the streets of the Tibetan capital, the protests spilled over into neighbouring Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu. 

 

Spotlight 

 

Independent assessments of the ongoing troubles and the response of Chinese authorities are virtually impossible as foreign journalists are banned from travelling to the region.

 

The protests have come at an awkward time for the China's leaders, putting the country in the global spotlight ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

 

Tibetan activists staged protests in Greece on
Monday 
after the Olympic flame was lit [AFP]

The Olympic torch relay got off to an embarrassing start on Monday when three protesters were detained while trying to disrupt the flame lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece.

 

Paris-based Reporters without Frontiers, a press freedom group behind the protest, said it planned to stage similar protests along the torch relay route until the games open in Beijing on August 8.

 

The Olympic relay is expected to spark a wave of global protests against Chinese authorities over Tibet and a range of other issues, such as Beijing's record on human rights and religious freedoms.

 

The flame is scheduled to pass over Mount Everest in Tibet in early May, and through Lhasa the following month.

 

Boycott opposed

 

On Monday Xinhua published a commentary calling for global opposition to calls for a boycott and other action targeting the Olympics.

 

"In the run-up to the games, the international community, true sports lovers and opponents of violence ... must stand fast against any attempt to undermine the Olympics," it said.

 

But on the same day, a dual world record-breaking French swimmer said a boycott of the opening ceremony would send an important message.

 

Alain Bernard, newly crowned European champion in the 50 metres and 100m freestyle and world record holder in both events, told French television station TF1 that a boycott would represent a show of political strength.

 

"Boycott the opening ceremony, why not," he said.

 

"It would be a huge message from the politicians. Boycotting is a very delicate question. As a sportsman, we will have an important role to play because what we are going to produce there, our results will attract the eyes of the world."