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China Says US Honoring Dalai Lama 'Seriously Harms' Relations


China's government has said Washington's plans to honor the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, would "seriously harm" China-U.S. relations. China has pulled out of scheduled talks on new sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, apparently in protest at the visit. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's Foreign Ministry lashed out at Washington for plans to honor the Dalai Lama during a visit this week to the U.S. capitol.

President Bush is to meet with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader at the White House. He also will attend a ceremony Wednesday where the Dalai Lama will receive the Congressional Gold Medal - the most prestigious U.S. honor for a civilian.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters the Dalai Lama was a politician in disguise and the honor was interference in China's internal affairs.

"The U.S. side's actions have seriously harmed U.S.-China relations," said Liu. "We hope the U.S. side will seriously and solemnly handle the serious representations of China, correct its mistakes and cancel relevant arrangements, and stop all forms of interfering in the internal affairs of China."

A U.S. State Department official told reporters Monday that China pulled out of a meeting of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany to protest the Dalai Lama's visit. The group was to meet Wednesday in Berlin to discuss proposals for new sanctions against Iran for failing to comply with U.N. resolutions to shut down its nuclear programs. China has been reluctant to support such sanctions.

Liu would only say the Chinese envoy could not attend the Berlin meeting for "technical reasons."

China routinely protests to any country the Dalai Lama visits.

Beijing canceled an annual human-rights dialogue with Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama in September.

China's army has occupied Tibet since the 1950s, but Beijing claims the territory has been a part of the country for centuries.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India after a failed uprising in 1959 against heavy-handed communist rule.

Beijing considers the Nobel Peace Prize winner a threat to its rule over Tibet. He advocates giving the region greater political autonomy, but does not call for independence.

The Dalai Lama is widely supported among Tibetans as their spiritual leader, despite Beijing's attempts to demonize him and strict controls on religion in the territory.