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New Tibetan PM Vows to Continue Pressing China on Autonomy


Newly elected PM Lobsang Sangay, left, and outgoing PM Samdhong Rinpoche, center, walk out of the prayer hall at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, August 3, 2011

Newly elected PM Lobsang Sangay, left, and outgoing PM Samdhong Rinpoche, center, walk out of the prayer hall at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, August 3, 2011

The newly-elected Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, says he will use his tenure in office to continue pressing China for negotiations aimed at resolving the decades-long dispute over the status of Tibet.

Sangay assumes office Monday, ending months of transition within the exile government sparked by previously scheduled ministerial elections and by the Dalai Lama's decision to step away from political affairs. Tens of thousands of exiled Tibetans from across the globe elected Sangay in April. The Dalai Lama, 76, says he will retain his role as Tibet's spiritual leader.

China has routinely accused the Dalai Lama and his followers of advocating Tibetan secession, despite repeated assurances from the Nobel laureate that he is seeking dialogue with Beijing aimed at establishing Tibetan autonomy.

Sunday, Sangay, 42, speaking from exile headquarters in northern India, told Reuters television he will strive to communicate with Chinese civil society as well as the government, in order to "resolve differences peacefully, based on mutual interests."

In a published commentary, Sangay vowed to restore freedom for Tibetans and for the return the Dalai Lama to his homeland.

Sangay also noted his 16 years as a Harvard law scholar, saying he used that post to routinely reach out to the Chinese people through dialogue. He said he will continue that practice as prime minister so that Tibet's status can be resolved peacefully.

The exile government has operated from Dharamsala, India since 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Beijing still refers to the revered monk as a "splitist" (separatist), despite the Dalai lama's repeated assurances that his objective is autonomy in his homeland rather than independence.

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