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China Says US Award for Dalai Lama Gravely Undermines Relations


China says the United States has "gravely undermined" relations between the two countries by awarding Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, with its highest civilian medal.

Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters Thursday, that the United States needs to take concrete steps to make amends for what he called the "terrible impact" of its actions.

The ministry also summoned Washington's ambassador in Beijing to deliver a strong protest over the ceremony.

In Washington on Wednesday, President Bush personally presented the 72-year-old Buddhist monk with the Congressional Gold Medal and called on China's leaders to open talks with the Dalai Lama.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet.

In his remarks, the Dalai Lama reiterated his desire for the Tibetan people to have meaningful autonomy within China.

The Dalai Lama thanked Americans for their unwavering support for the Tibetan people. He said the congressional award will send a powerful message to those promoting peace, understanding and harmony.

Even before the ceremony took place, China protested, and pulled out of U.S.-sponsored international talks this week on Iran's nuclear program.

Last month, Beijing canceled annual human rights talks with Germany that were to be held in December after German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.