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Top US official to hold talks with Dalai Lama
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | April 15, 2008 11:32 IST
A special envoy of President George W Bush [Images] will hold talks with the Dalai Lama [Images] next week on the "ongoing and serious" problem in Tibet [Images], the highest level of contact between the administration and the Tibetan spiritual leader since an unrest erupted in the Himalayan region, the US said on Tuesday.
It, however, maintained that the meeting will not represent any "new initiative" though the two sides would discuss America's view that the Chinese authorities ought to engage in discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue.
The comments from the State Department came even as top administration officials said that President Bush will be attending the Olympics [Images], but continued to hedge on whether he will be there for the opening ceremonies.
"Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, who is also the special envoy for Tibet, is going to be meeting with the Dalai Lama in Michigan on April 21," State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said.
"I'm sure there have been some conversations between her staff and the Dalai Lama's staff to set that meeting up. Beyond that, I'm not aware that there has been any substantive contacts at a higher level between the Dalai Lama and other officials here in this building," Casey said.
Describing the Dalai Lama, now on a US visit, as "someone who carries a great deal of moral authority among Tibetan officials," he said the Tibetan leader and Dobriansky were "going to be talking about our view that Chinese authorities ought to engage in a discussion with the Dalai Lama."
"We'll be interested in hearing his views on the situation there. We'll be interested in hearing about that and any other thoughts and ideas he might have about the situation there," Casey added.
Casey said there is an "ongoing and serious" problem in Tibet.
"We have spoken out on that repeatedly. It is an issue that certainly, as I just said, I expect she will be discussing with him. But if your point is, are we going into this meeting with a new initiative or expecting a new initiative from him, that's not the case," he added.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] has said that the Olympics is a sporting event and that she did not even favour the US boycott of Moscow [Images] Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
"I am a big believer that the Olympics is a sporting event. And I really wasn't very favourable toward the American boycott of the Olympics in 1980 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Frankly, I thought it looked kind of weak," Rice said.
"They invade Afghanistan, the best thing you can do is boycott the Olympics and deny athletes who've trained their whole lives the opportunity to be in the Olympics. And so I see the Olympics as a sporting event," Rice said.
This doesn't mean that the president or she herself will not press the Chinese "about human rights, about Tibet, about Darfur," she said.
"We've been doing it. We'll do it before, during and after the Olympics. But it's also -- this is going to be a moment of pride for 1.3 billion Chinese people. And I think it's important to realise that, too. You don't want to take their moment of pride and make it a moment in which the United States, for really political theatre, decides not to come to the Olympics. And so I know the president will look at the schedule and the like," she added.