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Monday, May 5, 2008

Dalai Lama envoy upbeat on China talks

HONG KONG (Reuters) - An envoy of the Dalai Lama said on Tuesday that one-day talks with China on the unrest in Tibet had been "a good first step", and the two sides will meet again after he reports back to the exiled spiritual leader.

"We had very candid discussions ... we have a good rapport, so that is always very helpful," Lodi Gyari told Reuters at Hong Kong airport as he prepared to board a flight for India, home of the Tibet government-in-exile.

"We have agreed to meet once again so I think it is a good sign, but we will make a formal statement after I have reported to his Holiness when I get back to India."

Lodi Gyari and another envoy held a meeting with Chinese officials, the first since an eruption of Tibetan protests and deadly riots two months ago, in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Monday.

The unrest, the most serious challenge to Chinese rule in the mountainous region for nearly two decades, prompted anti-China protests around the world that disrupted the international leg of the Olympic torch relay and led to calls for Western leaders to boycott August's Beijing Games.

China proposed the latest talks last month after Western governments urged it to open new dialogue with the Dalai Lama, who says he wants a high level of autonomy, not independence, for the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan homeland he fled in 1959.

But state-run Xinhua news agency said on Sunday that the meeting was arranged at the government-in-exile's repeated request for contacts and consultations with Beijing.

Lodi Gyari, speaking to the media for the first time since the closed-door Shenzhen meeting, said a date for a further round of talks would only be announced after consultations with the Dalai Lama.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Writing by Lucy Hornby; Editing by John Chalmers)

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