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US urges China to refrain from using violence against monks

The United States has urged China to refrain from using violence against Buddhist monks protesting against the Communist rule in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
PTI | By Sridhar Krishnaswami, Washington
UPDATED ON MAR 15, 2008 08:27 AM IST

The United States has urged China to refrain from using violence against Buddhist monks protesting against the Communist rule in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, while repeating its call to Beijing to put its "best face forward" ahead of Olympics later this year.

Concerned over the situation, the American ambassador in Beijing Clark Randt met China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui and urged the authorities to turn away from using force against the protestors.

"Ambassador Randt took the opportunity in a meeting with a senior Chinese official (the Vice Foreign Minister) to urge that the Chinese government, in responding to protesters, turn away from use of force or violence," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in his briefing at Foggy Bottom.

However, he said that Washington had not received any feedback from Ambassador Randt on any assurances by China that it will observe restraint.

"I didn't get a feedback from what Ambassador Randt heard. He did convey that urging to the Chinese government, though, in this meeting," McCormack said.

Several deaths and injuries were reported yesterday in street fighting between Chinese troops and Buddhist monks in the Lhasa.

But McCormack refused to confirm reports of violence in Lhasa.

"There have been reports coming out via the media and that we have received through our embassy of violence in Lhasa. I can't confirm those reports for you as we do not have anybody on the ground at the moment, but we will be looking into those reports and to try to get as full a picture as we possibly can about what has happened and what is ongoing," he said.

"We have urged the Chinese government to respect Tibetan culture, as well as the multi-ethnic nature of China today. It is very important, in our view, and President Bush has express this view, that the Chinese government open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and we continue to urge that," McCormack said.

"Nobody benefits from violence. So, nobody wants to see that. But we believe that it's very important that, in responding to these protests, that the Chinese government turn away from use of force or violence in responding to the protests," he said.

When asked if there could be a change in US policy on the Olympics given what was taking place in Tibet, the senior State department official suggested he was not aware of any such shift.

"Our view, very consistently, as expressed by the president as well as other Cabinet officials, has been we view the Olympics as a sporting event, an important international event. And it has been our counsel to China, both in public and private, to use this international event to put China's best face forward," he said.

"We will do that in broad strokes, but also in terms of individual cases, as the secretary did on her last trip. And I think on basically every opportunity that she has or senior officials have, we do raise individual cases, as well as talk about the wider issue," the state department official said.

McCormack further said: "I would expect that we will continue that in the run-up to the Olympics, we'll continue it after the Olympics. But it is our counsel to the Chinese government to put their best face forward to the world as they host this important international sporting event".

The spokesman also said that he was not aware of any call from the Dalai Lama for the US to intervene.

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