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Bush to meet with Dalai Lama

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush will meet the Dalai Lama Wednesday at the White House, a formal meeting that will occur on the 50th anniversary of China's military reoccupation of Tibet.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the meeting would be in the executive mansion and would include other senior administration officials.

Former President Bill Clinton had several brief encounters with the Dalai Lama -- the most recent in June 2000 -- during visits to the White House, but avoided an Oval Office meeting that would have provided the trappings of a visit of a head of state -- trappings that would have irked Beijing.

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Another administration official described the encounter with Bush as a "private meeting with a Nobel Prize winner and author."

Beijing contends Tibet is part of China and considers high-level meetings between government officials and the Dalai Lama an intrusion into Chinese internal affairs. Tibetans argue that China has illegally occupied Tibet since using force in 1951 to suppress an independence movement begun in the Himalayan land in 1911.

The Chinese installed a communist government in Tibet in 1953, bringing substantial changes to what had been a Buddhist theocracy. An Tibetan uprising in 1956 spread to Tibet, and in 1959 the rebellion was crushed and Buddhism severely restricted. Some 100,000 refugees, the Dalai Lama among them, fled to India.

The Dalai Lama has said he does not seek independence for Tibet, merely greater autonomy. At a 1998 summit between Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the Chinese leader suggested he was open to a dialogue with the Dalai Lama about Tibet's future. Little progress has been achieved since then, however.







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