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Bush Urges Chinese Leaders to Meet With Dalai Lama


President Bush and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presented a united front on Tibet following talks Friday at the White House. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports they called on Chinese leaders to meet with representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Prime Minister Rudd says human rights abuses are being committed in Tibet, as China cracks down on Tibetans protesting Chinese rule.

"It's clear-cut," he said. "We need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what is going on."

Kevin Rudd once represented his country as a diplomat in Beijing, and is considered an expert among world leaders on China. At a joint news conference with President Bush, the new Australian prime minister urged the Chinese government to exercise restraint, and to meet with the Dalai Lama or his emissaries.

President Bush nodded in agreement, and said he passed along the same message earlier in the week during a telephone conversation with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"That's exactly what I told Hu Jintao a few days ago, that it is in his country's interest that he sit down, again with representatives of the Dalai Lama - not him, but his representatives. And I urged restraint," he said.

The brief statement marked the president's first public comment on Tibet since protests began there on March 10. For the most part, the administration has relied on private diplomatic channels to make its displeasure known to Beijing.

Both the president and the prime minister are trying to strike a delicate balance with China. They are speaking out on the crackdown on Tibet in a way that does not endanger cooperation with Beijing in other areas ranging from the trade to diplomatic efforts to deal with North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

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