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Dalai Lama tells AP: Exiles must press China talks

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[May 07, 2010]  DHARMSALA, India (AP) -- The Tibetan exile movement must press forward with its talks with the Chinese government despite almost no progress from years of negotiations, the Dalai Lama said Friday.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, the exiled spiritual leader warned that it could be decades before any benefits of such talks with China are obvious.

"So far, dialogue failed, but that does not mean in future no possibility," the Dalai Lama said in his private compound in this Indian hill town where he has lived since fleeing Tibet more than five decades ago.

He said that increasing sympathy for the Tibetan cause among Chinese intellectuals indicates that Beijing's policies could change. He also said there had been vague signs from Beijing that some of the top Chinese leadership might be ready to moderate its stand on Tibet.

Some Chinese leaders now believe that "policy regarding Tibet now should be more openly, more peacefully. I heard that. True or not? We'll have to wait."

Waiting, he added, is something the Tibetans understand.

"We wait 51 years, now another 10, 20 years we can wait," he said, breaking into laughter.

Talks between China and the Dalai Lama's envoys resumed in January for the first time in 15 months but made no apparent progress on the Tibetans' proposal for more autonomy in the region. Beijing refused to even talk about granting Tibet more latitude, limiting those discussions to the future of the exiled spiritual leader.

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The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959, nine years after Communist troops marched into the Himalayan region. Beijing claims Tibet has been a Chinese territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time and that migration to the region and restrictions on Buddhism are threatening their cultural heritage.

The Dalai Lama has said he hopes talks will bring some form of autonomy for Tibet within China that would allow the Tibetan way of life to thrive. But Beijing frequently demonizes the Nobel Peace laureate and accuses him of seeking independence for Tibet.

[Associated Press; By TIM SULLIVAN]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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