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China Says 'Always Open' to Dialogue With Dalai Lama - 2004-03-04

The Chinese government says it is open to negotiations with the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, but only if he gives up his quest for Tibetan independence.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Thursday told reporters his country is always ready for such talks, but said the Dalai Lama must accept that his homeland is an inseparable part of China.

The spokesman's comments repeat the position Beijing has held since the Tibetan spiritual leader fled to India in March 1959 after a failed anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet. Despite its hard public line, China's government has been talking to envoys of the Dalai Lama since late 2002, after a break of nearly a decade.

The Dalai Lama has said many times that he is seeking genuine autonomy for Tibet, not independence from China. He also has urged the government in Beijing to respect Tibetans' political and cultural rights.

In 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent resistance to Beijing's rule over his homeland.