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US Ambassador in India Visits Dalai Lama

U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford has made his first visit to the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan spiritual leader's residence in exile in Dharamsala. U.S. officials call the trip part of their periodic contacts with the Tibetan government in exile. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

American and Tibetan officials on Thursday confirmed that the U.S. Ambassador to India went to Dharamsala and met the Dalai Lama and top officials of the Tibetan government in exile.

U.S. embassy officials in New Delhi say David Mulford and his wife went to the northern Indian city on Wednesday as part of periodic contacts between the U.S. government and Tibetan leaders.

The cabinet secretary for Tibet's exile government, Migyur Dorjee, tells VOA that the visit is a morale booster for Tibetan officials in India, where the Dalai Lama has lived since 1959 when Chinese troops suppressed an uprising in their homeland.

"Any ambassador coming over to Dharamsala to call on His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and his Cabinet here, besides seeing the Tibetan institutions and others established over here, itself is significant in a way that they're giving importance to the Tibetan issues," said Dorjee.

Meetings between the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, and foreign government officials provoke criticism from Beijing, which regards Tibet as an integral part of China - a position the United States recognizes. Beijing also accuses the Dalai Lama of heading a separatist movement.

Tibetan cabinet secretary Dorjee says there is no reason for China to criticize Ambassador Mulford's visit.

"There shouldn't be any kind of backlash, as such, because His Holiness has been meeting the President [of the United States] himself on many occasions," said Dorjee. "Our prime minister also met several of the U.S. leadership in Washington, D.C."

Tibetan officials Wednesday hosted a dinner for the U.S. ambassador on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Earlier in the day, Mulford held talks for more than an hour with the Dalai Lama, but neither the embassy nor Tibetan officials are commenting on the substance of their discussion.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky made a similar visit to Dharamsala last November to hear from the Dalai Lama on the status of his dialog with China, the human rights situation in Tibet and the needs of Tibetan refugees.

The United States has been encouraging such dialog between Beijing and the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Embassy officials say the U.S. government continues to ask China to respect the unique religious, linguistic and cultural elements of the Tibetan people and protect their human rights and civil liberties.