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China Offers to Meet with Dalai Lama Representative


The Chinese government has announced it will soon meet with an envoy of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to discuss the situation in Tibet. The European Commission President is in Beijing for high level economic talks and has welcomed the announcement as a positive gesture. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's official Xinhua news agency quoted an unnamed Chinese official Friday saying a central government department would meet with a representative of the Dalai Lama in the coming days.

The official said the decision to allow the meeting was made after repeated requests from the Dalai Lama's side for resuming talks.

China has also been under pressure from the United States and European countries to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told journalists in Beijing he was encouraged by the positive development.

"On behalf of the European Commission I very much congratulate them for this gesture and I really hope that now we can see some progress," he said. "Because the issue of human rights as I've stated privately with the Chinese authorities and publicly, the human rights issue it's not internal affairs issue. Human rights is a universal issue."

Mr. Barroso made the comments Friday evening after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao.

Barroso was in China for the first session of high level EU-China economic and trade talks.

The talks focused on mutual cooperation on fighting climate change, but also included working to balance trade and human rights issues such as Tibet.

Mr. Wen said he gave Mr. Barroso an update on the situation in Tibet, but gave no further details of discussions on the issue.

On other topics, he said the two sides agreed to work closer on environmental and food safety issues and to promote expert and student exchanges.

He says their mutual benefits far outweigh the conflicts and differences. He says as long as they respect, trust, learn from each other, and work with each other China-EU relations will surely have broad prospects.

Xinhua did not give a date for when or where the talks with the Dalai Lama's envoy would take place or the names of officials who would represent either side.

The meeting would be the first direct contact between the two sides after violent unrest in Tibet last month that China blamed on the Dalai Lama.

Beijing says rioting Tibetans killed 22 people after days of peaceful protests against government persecution turned violent.

Tibetan exiles say dozens more Tibetans were killed. But none of the figures can be confirmed independently and foreign journalists have been barred from Tibetan areas of China.

Mr. Barroso said earlier Friday he raised the issue of opening Tibet up to foreign journalists when he met with Premier Wen, but he declined to give journalists Mr. Wen's response.

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