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President Bush will this week become the first sitting US President to appear publicly with the Dalai Lama, a move that has alarmed China at a time of increased tensions between Tibetan monks and Beijing.
Mr Bush will also play host to Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader at the White House tomorrow before attending a ceremony on Wednesday where the Dalai Lama will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the US Congress’s highest civilian honour.
In their two previous meetings, Mr Bush – like other presidents – met the Dalai Lama in private to avoid offending China, which accuses him of being a separatist intent on winning Tibetan independence from Beijing.
The Dalai Lama’s congressional award and US visit have been condemned by Beijing, which accused Congress of “interfering in China’s internal affairs”. Last month Beijing warned Germany that bilateral ties had been damaged after Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, met the Dalai Lama in Berlin. He also met John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, in June.