World

Rice urges China to start talks with Dalai Lama

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday called for China to open up dialogue with the Dalai Lama as a new way of addressing Tibetan grievances.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday called for China to open up dialogue with the Dalai Lama as a new way of addressing Tibetan grievances.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington, she said that starting talks "is going to be the only policy that is sustainable in Tibet."

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, with his "unassailable authoritative moral stature," can "play a very favourable role" in helping achieve a peaceful resolution to recent unrest, Rice said at a news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

But China views the Dalai Lama as an agitator for Tibetan independence and has accused the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of trying to tarnish Beijing's image leading up to the Summer Olympics.

Rice also praised U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit last week with the Dalai Lama in the home of the government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.
 
"To have contact with him, I think, is a good thing, not a bad thing," Rice said.

Beijing, however, says Pelosi ignored the truth about Tibet.

Also on Monday, two pro-Tibetan protesters briefly disrupted the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics that took place in Greece's Ancient Olympia stadium.

Security had been tightened for the event in the wake of recent Tibetan protests.

Peaceful protests began in the Tibetan capital Lhasa to mark the 49th anniversary uprising against Chinese rule, then escalated into rioting on March 14.

China puts the death toll at 22 people, but Tibetan exile groups claim a much higher figure of 99.

With files from the Associated Press