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Obama throws support behind Dalai Lama, Tibet rights

Published on Feb 22, 2014 2:47 AM
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama poses for a picture along with street children adopted by a charitable day-boarding school in New Delhi last year. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Friday offered his “strong support” for the protection of Tibetans’ human rights in China as he defied protests from Beijing to meet the Dalai Lama.

With China warning that the meeting would derail ties between the world’s two largest economies, Mr Obama took care to avoid any trappings of an official visit, receiving the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in the Map Room of the White House residence and not the Oval Office where he usually talks to dignitaries.

The Dalai Lama, usually chatty and playful with foreign audiences, was nowhere to be seen at the White House, which did not allow in reporters. The administration instead released an official photograph of the robed Buddhist monk gesticulating with one hand and clutching prayer beads in the other as he spoke to a studious-looking Obama over glasses of water.

In Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned the US charge d’affaires, Daniel Kritenbrink, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. “China expresses strong indignation and firm opposition,” Mr Zhang was quoted as saying.

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