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    Obama to Host Dalai Lama at White House

    U.S. President Barack Obama will meet the Dalai Lama Friday at the White House, prompting a statement of "serious concern" from China.

    The White House said late Thursday that Mr. Obama is meeting the Dalai Lama "in his capacity as a respected religious and cultural leader."

    A statement said the U.S. supports the Dalai Lama's so-called "middle way" approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China.

    China's foreign ministry quickly urged the U.S. to cancel the meeting, calling it a "gross interference" that will "seriously damage" U.S.-China ties.

    Beijing views the Dalai Lama as a dangerous "splittist" who has encouraged a wave of self-immolations by Tibetans. He denies the charge.

    The U.S. recognizes Tibet to be a part of China. While Washington does not back Tibetan independence, it is concerned over what it says is the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China.

    The White House calls on China to reopen talks with the Dalai Lama or his representatives with no preconditions.



    Mr. Obama has met with the Dalai Lama twice before -- in 2010 and 2011.

    Since February 2009, more than 126 people have self-immolated in traditionally Tibetan areas of China to protest Beijing's policy in their homeland.

    The Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Authority, located in India, are outspoken critics of China's policies, but have discouraged the suicide protests.

    Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of a campaign of religious and cultural persecution, as the country's majority Han ethnic group continues to move into historically Tibetan areas.

    China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernization and an increased standard of living to Tibet.

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