WASHINGTON –Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has met with U.S. President George W. Bush in a move which has irritated Beijing.
The two men discussed the political situation Tibet and the war in Iraq, with the U.S. leader reaffirming his support for Tibet’s separate cultural identity.
“The president also declared his strong support for the Dalai Lama’s commitment to the dialogue with China,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in a statement.
“The president said he would seek ways to encourage China to continue the dialogue on a substantive basis and expressed his hope that the Chinese government would respond favorably,” McClellan said.
After the meeting, the Dalai Lama said the president had shown “genuine interest and genuine sympathy” in the issues he raised, Reuters reports.
The Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibet’s Buddhists who believe him to be the 14th incarnation of the Buddha of compassion.
Ahead of his 20 day visit, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called on the United States not to allow the Dalai Lama “to engage in activities to split China.”
On Monday a commentary in the state-owned China Daily labeled the Dalai Lama a “political plotter” and warned that his visit to Washington could damage U.S.-China relations.
“The Tibet Autonomous Region is an integral part of the Chinese territory, and the United States’ granting permission for a visit by this political exile constitutes a serious intervention into China’s internal affairs,” the paper said.
During the meeting with Bush, the Dalai Lama criticized Chinese policies as counter-productive to stability and unity, according to Reuters.
The Dalai Lama had earlier met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and made a speech to members of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill.
While the U.S. supports move for greater Tibetan autonomy, it does not back calls for a fully independent nation.
The Bush administration also favors greater dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama, but generally ranks the issue to be a lower priority in talks with China than the Clinton administration gave it.
China has twice agreed to allow the Dalai Lama’s emissaries to visit Beijing and parts of Tibet, but the two sides remain far apart.
Tibetan officials say the Dalai Lama is welcome to return to his religious life in Tibet but he must first concede that Tibet and Taiwan are both part of China and come back as a patriotic Chinese citizen.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 after he fled Tibet following a failed revolt against Chinese rule, which began in 1951.
In 1989 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to the Chinese presence.
Associated Press contributed to this report.