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Obama to meet with Dalai Lama

BEIJING - China on Friday urged the United States to immediately cancel plans for President Barack Obama to meet with the Dalai Lama next week, warning the move could further hurt ties.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu issued the remarks hours after Washington announced Obama would meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader at the White House next Thursday.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for Tibetan independence, which the Dalai Lama denies, and believes that shunning the exiled Tibetan monk should be a basic principle of international relations.

Obama has been under intense pressure to meet with the Dalai Lama after putting off a meeting in October.

"We urge the U.S. side to fully understand the high sensitivity of Tibet-related issues, honor its commitment to recognizing Tibet as part of China and opposing 'Tibet independence,' " Ma said.

The United States should cancel the meeting "so as not to cause further damage to Sino-U.S. relations," Ma said in a statement.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama looked forward to an "engaging and constructive dialogue" with the Dalai Lama.

Every U.S. president for the last two decades has met with the Dalai Lama, who enjoys widespread support in the United States, and those visits are considered powerful signs of the American commitment to human rights.

Obama told China's leaders last year that he would meet with the monk.

China-U.S. relations have been strained in recent weeks over several issues: Washington announcing a $6.4-billion arms sale to Taiwan, the self-governing island Beijing claims as its own; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging Beijing to investigate hacking attacks that led to Google's threat to pull out of China; and Obama vowing to get tough with China on a currency dispute.

"We think we have a mature enough relationship with the Chinese that we can agree on issues that are of mutual interest," while not agreeing on every issue, Gibbs said Thursday at his daily briefing.

Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House. Gibbs said he didn't know whether press coverage of the Dalai Lama's visit with Obama would be allowed.With Bloomberg News

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