Strategy re-evaluated

The decision by the exiles is their first major strategy re-evaluation since 1988 when the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, outlined his Middle Way approach, abandoning the dream of an independent Tibet in favour of seeking greater autonomy within China through dialogue.

The Dalai Lama initiated the meeting after expressing frustration over years of fruitless talks with China.

Analysts and many Tibetans have said they believe the 73-year-old, who fled Tibet in 1959, called the meeting partly to unite the Tibetan exile movement and prepare for his retirement.

Demands for independence

Some exiled Tibetans, many of them young, are demanding a more aggressive pro-independence stance towards Beijing.

Some groups at the meeting wanted to give China two years to resolve the Tibetan issue or face more radical protests, but an overwhelming majority said they wanted to stick to a non-violent path, admitting they could do little more than hope for a softening in Beijing's stance.

"Our clear goal is the Middle Way approach. We always want to adopt non-violence", Samdhong Rimpoche, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile, said.

"A small section of people do not agree but their views have also been heard."

Frustration over Chinese rule is growing in Tibet and an uprising in March in western China was subsequently quelled in a violent crackdown by the Chinese authorities.

Tibet's struggle for independence from China has raged for centuries.

Chinese troops occupied Tibet in 1950 and the Dalai Lama fled the mountainous region nine years later after a failed uprising against rule by Beijing.