Obama urges China to discuss Tibet with the Dalai Lama (Lead)

Beijing, Nov 17 (DPA) US President Barack Obama Tuesday urged his Chinese counterpart to hold talks with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who is denounced as a separatist by China’s ruling Communist Party.

“We did note that while we recognise that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have,” Obama told reporters.

In talks with Hu, the US side also promoted “America’s bedrock belief that all men and women posses certain universal rights”, he said.

The two sides agreed to hold a bilateral dialogue on human rights early next year, Obama said in a statement given at a joint press event with Hu.

Obama’s comment on the Dalai Lama came as rights groups Tuesday said China had sentenced the founder of a Tibetan-language website to 15 years in prison after convicting him of “disclosing state secrets” and sentenced a Tibetan blogger to five years in prison.

Before Obama’s visit to China, US actor Richard Gere signed a letter to him as the chairman of the board of the International Campaign for Tibet, saying Tibetans were “alarmed and disappointed” by Obama’s decision not to meet the Dalai Lama when the Buddhist leader visited Washington last month.

The Dalai Lama and the Chinese government have both said they want to reach an agreement on Tibet’s future through dialogue, but signs of genuine accord are as elusive as ever, 50 years after Tibet’s religious leader and 100,000 of his supporters fled into exile.

After Communist Party officials met the Dalai Lama’s envoys for the most recent of seven rounds of talks in Beijing in November 2008, China said “serious differences” remained.

Chinese leaders blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging violent anti-Chinese protests by Tibetans earlier last year.

Former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had both urged China to hold talks with the Dalai Lama.