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Tibetan Exiles Discuss Future of Tibet


Hundreds of Tibetans from around the world have begun a week-long conference in northern India to discuss the future of their campaign for Tibet.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader - the Dalai Lama - organized the six-day meeting. He said he hopes it will be a forum for open and frank discussion about the situation in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama recently expressed frustration with talks between Tibetan and Chinese negotiators to win greater autonomy for the remote Himalayan region.

He has long sought what he calls meaningful autonomy for Tibet, instead of the full independence that many younger Tibetan activists demand.

Some Tibetan exiles said that his approach has failed and that it should now be replaced by a more aggressive pro-independence stance.

Karma Chophel, the speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, said that in a recent survey of 17,000 Tibetans still living in China, most [about 8,000] would follow any decision the Dalai Lama made.

Another 5,000 said they wanted Tibetan independence.

Chophel declined to give any details on how or when the survey was conducted.

Chophel has said this week's meeting will look at fresh approaches toward China, but adds that armed struggle is not an option.

On Sunday, the Dalai Lama's envoys expressed frustration with the lack of progress in their talks with China. They said the talks confirmed the failure of Beijing to seriously respond to the Tibetan movement's desire for autonomy.

China has also said the talks made no progress, adding that it would never accept the Dalai Lama's call for greater autonomy.

China took control over Tibet in 1951. Eight years later, the Dalai Lama fled and resettled in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala after a failed uprising against Chinese communist rule.

Dharamsala is the site of this week's meeting and also the headquarters of Tibet's government-in-exile.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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