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Hundreds in Rome Protest Tibet Crackdown; Pope Calls for Dialogue

Hundreds of people turned out in Rome Wednesday to demonstrate in support of the people of Tibet following last week's unrest and a crackdown by the Chinese authorities. Also Wednesday, Pope Benedict appealed reports for VOA from Rome.

A large banner on the stage in Rome's Campo de' Fiori Square read: "We are all Tibetans." Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday afternoon to show solidarity with the Tibetan people and voice their opposition to the brutal crackdown carried out by the Chinese authorities.

Many waved flags from the tiny Himalayan state. Italian politicians from across the political divide attended the demonstration and criticized what they called China's brutal repression just months ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Maurizio Gasparri of the right-wing National Alliance said China applies the death penalty, exploits workers, and massacres people in Tibet and yet we are still talking about holding the Olympic Games in Beijing.

He said China should not be part of the international community if it does not respect the rights of Tibetans.

Tukten Tenzin, president of the Tibetan community in Italy, also spoke at the gathering.

He said his people are calling for concrete political support from the West.

Pope Benedict also raised his voice Wednesday.

At the general audience, the pope said he is following events in Tibet with trepidation. He said his heart feels pain for the suffering of so many people. He said violence only aggravates problems.

The pope did not mention China specifically. Benedict has made improving relations with Beijing and the normalization of ties, severed in 1951, a major goal of his pontificate.