Saturday, 13 February 2010

US Escalates Row with China, Refuses to Cancel Obama - Dalai Lama Meeting


13/02/2010 The United States has escalated a mounting row on multiple fronts with China, refusing Beijing's demand to cancel President Barack Obama's meeting next week with the Dalai Lama.

The deepening public spat over Tibet, a row over US arms sales to Taiwan, China's dispute with Google and trade and currency disagreements, come at a key diplomatic moment, as Obama seeks Chinese help to toughen sanctions on Iran.

The White House announced Thursday that Obama would hold his long-awaited meeting with the revered Dalai Lama at the White House next week, drawing an angry reaction from China and a demand for the invitation to be rescinded.

But Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs signaled the White House would defy China's warning that the encounter would damage already strained Sino-US relations.

"I do not know if their specific reaction was to cancel it," Gibbs said.

"If that was their specific reaction, the meeting will take place as planned next Thursday."

Obama avoided the Dalai Lama when he was in Washington in 2009, in an apparent bid to set relations with Beijing off on a good foot in the first year of a presidency which included several meetings with President Hu Jintao.

But he warned Chinese leaders on an inaugural visit to Beijing in November that he intended to meet the Buddhist monk.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said earlier that Beijing firmly opposed "the Dalai Lama visiting the United States and US leaders having contact with him."

"China urges the US... to immediately call off the wrong decision of arranging for President Obama to meet with the Dalai Lama... to avoid any more damage to Sino-US relations."

China does not agree to the concept of toughened sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, calling for more negotiations, even as Russia appears closer to backing the move to impose sanctions on Tehran.

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