Tibet-China talks 'good first step'

Dalai Lama envoys positive about "candid" talks as Beijing offers another meeting.

    China says 22 people died in the Tibet violence but critics say many more perished [AFP]

    He said he and fellow envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen will return home to Dharmsala in India to report to the Dalai Lama before announcing a date for a second round of talks.

    China's official Xinhua news agency, confirmed the two sides had agreed to another round of talks but did not specify when that would be.

    Beijing proposed the latest talks last month after Western governments urged it to open discussions with the Dalai Lama.

    Improve conditions

    Kesang Yangkyi Takla, foreign minister for the Tibetan government-in-exile, told The Associated Press in Belgium on Monday that the weekend meeting primarily focused on ways to improve conditions in Tibet.

    "We feel that until and unless the current crisis ... in Tibet improves, it is difficult to start negotiations. This is where we are focusing at the moment," she said.

    "We hope that the government in China will consider this and give a concrete reply so that things improve in Tibet."

    Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, expressed his desire for a positive outcome before the talks, the first since 2006 when negotiations between the sides broke down after six rounds.

    Both sides, however, have kept back channels for dialogue open.

    'Anti-Chinese forces'

    A commentary in the Tibet Daily, mouthpiece of the Tibet regional government, on Sunday accused the Dalai Lama of being a "loyal tool of international anti-Chinese forces".

    China says 22 people died in violence in Tibet's capital of Lhasa in March, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number died in protests and a subsequent crackdown

    The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959, has previously said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practise their culture, language and religion.

    Beijing has blamed the Dalai Lama for fomenting the latest unrest, an accusation he has repeatedly denied.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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