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China ready for dialogue with Dalai Lama

RIA Novosti

29/04/2008 17:03 BEIJING, April 29 (RIA Novosti) - Chinese officials are ready to meet "in the coming days" with representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader who they blame for last month's riots in the Tibetan capital, the Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.

The move comes after criticism by the international community for China's handling of the protests in Lhasa and calls by Western leaders for a boycott of the opening ceremony of Beijing's Olympic Games in August until China agrees to hold talks with the Dalai Lama.

"We hope the Dalai Lama and his followers will cherish this opportunity.....and take concrete actions to stop violent crimes and activities and those involving disruption of the Beijing Olympics and splitting the motherland, to create conditions for further consultation," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on Tuesday.

She dismissed reports that China was bowing to international pressure: "The central government's contact and consultation with the Dalai Lama are completely the internal affairs of China," adding that a timeframe and agenda for the talks had yet to be fixed.

The Dalai Lama, who has repeatedly denied being behind the unrest in Tibet, is reported to have welcomed the news, but only if the talks are productive.

According to official reports, the unrest in Tibet, which started March 10 when Buddhist monks took to the street to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, left 19 people dead and 623 injured and caused an estimated $35-million worth of damage.

However, in a Tuesday press release the Tibetan-government in-exile put the figure much higher at 203 dead, over 1000 injured and 5,700 people still in custody.

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