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China Thanks Tibetan Monks, Asks Them to Leave Quake Site


China says it has asked Tibetan monks assisting with earthquake relief efforts in western China to return home.

A statement issued Friday by the State Council, or Cabinet, says the monks have been asked to leave Yushu prefecture because the government's efforts are shifting to disease prevention and reconstruction, which requires specialized personnel.

The council says it fully recognizes the monks' "positive role" in the early days of the disaster.

The head of Gengqing monastery, Yixi Luoren, told reporters Thursday that authorities ordered 120 of 150 monks to leave.

But Wang Yuhu, the governor of Yushu prefecture, told the state-run Xinhua news agency the government there did not "give or receive any orders," and also praised the Tibetan monks' role in the relief efforts.

Thousands of monks have helped with post-earthquake relief, combing through the ruins of buildings for survivors and providing shelter, food, and water.

State-run media say the death toll from the April 14 quake in Qinghai province stood at 2,183 Thursday. Eighty-four people are still missing from the quake, which hit a mostly Tibetan area.

China's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said the country has received nearly $4 million dollars in aid and donations from some 200 countries. The United States has donated $100,000 to Red Cross organizations in China to respond to the urgent needs in the disaster zone.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has appealed to the Chinese government to allow him to visit the quake site, but Beijing has not responded.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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