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Obama voices support for Tibetan human rights

US President meets Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama despite China's warnings that move will damage relations.

Last updated: 21 Feb 2014 19:52
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China urged the US to scrap plans for the meeting [AP]

United States President Barack Obama has offered "strong support" for the human rights of Tibetans in a meeting with the region's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

"The president reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China," a White House statement said on Friday following the meeting.

The talks between Obama and the Dalai Lama came despite China's call for the US to scrap plans for the meeting, warning it would "seriously damage" ties between the two countries.

The White House said that Obama supported the Dalai Lama's path of peaceful dialogue and encouraged China to resume long-stalled talks with the exiled leader or his representatives.

The statement rejected Beijing's charges that the Dalai Lama had a separatist agenda and that the meeting was part of a plot to split China, stressing that the US did not support Tibet's independence.

"The Dalai Lama stated that he is not seeking independence for Tibet and hopes that dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume," it said.

'Powerful message'

Obama's session with the Dalai Lama sent a "powerful message" with the two leaders discussing human rights, Tibet's exiled prime minister told AFP news agency after the White House talks.

"The respect shown to His Holiness by President Obama means a lot to Tibetans all over the world, particularly inside Tibet," Lobsang Sangay said. 

"The United States' arrangement for its leader to meet the Dalai would be a gross interference in China's internal affairs and is a serious violation of the norms of international relations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement before the meeting.

It was the third time Obama met the Dalai Lama, who the White House calls "an internationally respected religious and cultural leader". Previous meetings were in February 2010 and July 2011.

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