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February 4, 2010

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Obama confirms Dalai meeting, despite warning

CHINA warned US President Barack Obama yesterday that a planned meeting between him and the Dalai Lama would further erode ties between the two nations, already troubled by Washington's arms sales to Taiwan.

The White House confirmed on Tuesday that Obama would meet the Dalai Lama.

China's indignant response reflected deepening tension between the two countries, with Beijing noting that President Hu Jintao himself urged Obama not to meet the Dalai Lama.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China resolutely opposes the leader of the United States having contact with the Dalai Lama under any pretext or in any form.

"This position is consistent and clear," Ma told a press conference in Beijing.

During Hu's meeting with Obama in Beijing last November, the Chinese leader "explained China's stern position of resolutely opposing any government leaders and officials meeting the Dalai," Ma said.

Ma was responding to claims that Obama had told Chinese leaders about the meeting during his November visit to China.

During Obama's China visit, when leaders from both countries talked about Tibet-related issues, China clearly asked the US not to allow Tibetan separatist forces to use the US territory for separatist activities against China, Ma said.

"We urge the US to fully grasp the high sensitivity of the Tibetan issues, to prudently and appropriately deal with related matters, and avoid bringing further damage to China-US relations," he said.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said on Tuesday that Obama told China's leaders during his trip last year that he would meet with the Dalai Lama and "he intends to do so."

On Tuesday, a Chinese Communist Party official said any meeting between Obama and the Dalai "would seriously undermine the political basis of Sino-US relations."

Zhu Weiqun, executive vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the Party's Central Committee warned of serious damage to Sino-US relations if Obama meets with the Dalai Lama.

Zhu said the move would "harm others but bring no profit to itself either."

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy would not pull out of meeting the Dalai Lama while his country held the rotating presidency of the European Union in late 2008, China cancelled a summit with the EU.

There were also Chinese calls for boycotts of French goods.


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