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Bush Urges China's Leaders to Meet With Dalai Lama


President Bush is urging Chinese leaders to open talks with the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, supporters of Tibet are protesting China hosting the Summer Olympics after cracking-down on anti-government protests in Tibet.

Following Oval Office talks with the Senior Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, President Bush told reporters that both men believe Beijing should reach out to the Dalai Lama.

"I would begin a dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama," he said. "They will find, if they ever were to reach out to the Dalai Lama, they would find him to be a really fine man, a peaceful man, a man who is anti-violence, a man who is not for independence but for the cultural identity of the Tibetans being maintained."

China has claimed Tibet as part of its territory since 1951. Beijing blames the Dalai Lama for orchestrating riots that, in its estimate, led to the deaths of at least 20 civilians last month. Tibetan exile groups say at least 140 people were killed when Chinese police used force to stop rallies marking the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Singapore's Senior Minister said dialogue with the Dalai Lama is the only way China can improve the situation.

"The way forward will be for Chinese leaders to talk to some representatives of the Dalai Lama, and better still if they can talk directly to the Dalai Lama," said Goh Chok Tong. "I think that is the only way for them to contain this problem."

Human rights organizations and pro-Tibetan groups are disrupting the Olympic torch's world relay in protest to China's continued rule in Tibet.

The White House says President Bush still intends to go to the Olympics in Beijing and will continue pressing Chinese leaders to improve human rights, democracy, political freedoms, and religious tolerance.

President Bush and the Senior Minister of Singapore discussed military rule in Burma, also known as Myanmar, where a controversial draft constitution will be put to a national referendum next month.

If approved by more than half the country's eligible voters, the new constitution will guarantee Burma's military a continued role in government and will ban Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from holding public office because she was once married to a foreigner.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has urged citizens to vote against the charter.

President Bush says Burma's rulers should not fear their own people.

"I'm disappointed with the progress made to date there and would urge the military leadership there to open up and respond to the will of the people," he said.

Singapore's Senior Minister says the military must be part of the solution.

"While the army is the problem, the army has to be part of the solution," he said. "Without the army playing a part in solving problems in Myanmar, there will be no solution."

President Bush and Singapore's Senior Minister also discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* corrected 10 April 2008 - The photo of spectators was originally incorrectly identified as protesters.

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