Takla, speaking from the Dalai Lama's base in Dharamsala in north India, said: "Only face-to-face meetings can lead to a resolution of the Tibetan issue.

 

"His holiness, since March 10 when the (anti-Chinese) protests started, had been making all efforts to reach out to China and the Chinese government and he hopes the Tibetan issue can be resolved only through dialogue."

 

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Earlier, Tempa Tsering, another Dalai Lama spokesman, had told Al Jazeera that he had heard nothing from Chinese officials regarding a proposed meeting.

 

"We are not aware of this as yet," he said.

 

"We have not received any information from the Chinese government."

 

If the offer was confirmed, Tsering said, it would be a "positive" move.

 

He said that any discussions had to be "meaningful, constructive and concrete".

 

Previous dialogue

 

Previous dialogue between Chinese officials and Tibetan representatives had not been able to make any progress, he said.

 

In its report Xinhua quoted Chinese officials as saying that the "relevant department of the central government [would have] contact and consultation with Dalai's private representative in the coming days".

 

The report added: "It is hoped that through contact and consultation, the Dalai side will take credible moves to stop activities aimed at splitting China, stop plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games so as to create conditions for talks."

 

Protests against the crackdown in Tibet have

dogged the Olympic torch relay [AFP]

The Chinese announcement follows escalating international pressure on Beijing to hold talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader following a recent Chinese crackdown on unrest in the Himalayan region.

 

Anger over the crackdown has become increasingly tied to China's hosting of this year's Olympics, with just 105 days to go to the opening ceremony.

 

Protests by pro-Tibet groups have disrupted several legs of the global Olympic torch relay, and there have been growing calls for world leaders to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing on August 8. 

 

China
has so far resisted pressure to talk with the Dalai Lama or his Tibetan government in exile, blaming the exiled spiritual leader and what it calls the "Dalai clique" for instigating the recent unrest in Tibet in an effort to split China and win independence for Tibet.
 

Domestic reaction

 

Melissa Chan, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Beijing, says that while the announcement is important, it will not be the first time Chinese officials have held talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama.

 

It does not, however, indicate that China is prepared to talk directly with the Dalai Lama himself.

 

Our correspondent adds that while the announcement does possibly indicate some response to pressure from the international community, it will be interesting to see how domestic media covers the announcement given their very strong rhetoric over the Tibetan unrest.

 

The Dalai Lama, who fled from Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, has frequently been denounced by Beijing as a traitor and a "splittist".