US Official to Meet with Dalai Lama to Discuss China's Crackdown in Tibet

The U.S. State Department says President Bush's special envoy for Tibet will meet next week with the Dalai Lama during the exiled spiritual leader's U.S. visit.

A State Department spokesman Monday said Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky will meet with the exiled spiritual leader next Monday April 21st in Michigan. The meeting will be the Bush administration's first since Tibetan protests that began last month sparked a Chinese security crackdown.

Spokesman Tom Casey said he did not expect Dobriansky to offer any new initiatives. But Casey said the U.S. envoy will be interested in hearing about the Dalai Lama's recent contacts with Chinese officials.

On Sunday, the Nobel peace prize laureate told a news conference in the U.S. state of Washington that his representatives are conducting talks with Chinese officials through private channels. He said he had no direct involvement in the conversations.

In an interview aired Monday on National Public Radio in the United States, the exiled spiritual leader said that Tibet is "materially backward" and that for Tibetans to realize the benefits of modernization it is necessary to remain part of China.

But he argued that the current situation, whether intentional or not, is resulting in "cultural genocide." He said the only way to stop it would be for China to grant Tibet control over education and other local matters.

He also denied Chinese claims that he is behind the recent turmoil in Tibet, saying he will resign as leader of Tibet's exiled government if violence in his homeland spirals out of control.

The Dalai Lama is attending a five-day conference in Seattle.

The India-based Tibetan-government-in-exile says about 150 people have died since Chinese security forces took action against protesters last month. China says about 20 "innocent" people have died, and blames the casualties on Tibetan rioters.

Tibetan exiles say Chinese security forces have locked down Tibetan Buddhist monasteries involved in recent protests while monks undergo political re-education.

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