Obama to meet Dalai Lama at White House on Saturday
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will express his support for dialogue to resolve differences over Tibet in a meeting with the Dalai Lama on Saturday, the White House said on Friday.
Obama's face time with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader stands to upset China, which has already responded sharply to other U.S. lawmakers meeting the Tibetan spiritual leader, a man Beijing reviles as a separatist.
The meeting in the White House Map Room is expected to last at least 30 minutes, and will be closed to the news media.
"The president will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences," the White House said in a statement.
"This meeting underscores the president's strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans," it said.
China accuses the Dalai Lama of supporting the use of violence to set up an independent Tibet.
The Nobel Prize laureate denies this, and says he only seeks true autonomy for the remote Himalayan region that China has ruled with an iron fist since invading it in 1950.
Last week, after top U.S. lawmakers including John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi met the Dalai Lama in Washington, Beijing warned the United States to stay out of its affairs.
"The affairs of Tibet are a purely Chinese internal matter, and China resolutely opposes any country or any person interfering in China's internal affairs on the issue of Tibet," the Chinese foreign ministry said.
Obama last met the Dalai Lama in February 2010, in a visit that also drew strong denunciation from Beijing.
(Reporting by Laura MacInnis and Jeff Mason; editing by Todd Eastham)
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