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WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2003--Envoys of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, have requested a third trip to Beijing and are awaiting a reply from the Chinese government, according to the Tibetan special envoy Lodi Gyari.
In an exclusive interview with RFA's Tibetan service, Gyari said the envoys, who have visited Beijing for talks with Chinese officials twice in the past year, had asked to go again.
"From our side, there is no change. As directed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we have already informed the Chinese central government that two envoys would like to go to Beijing," Gyari said.
Gyari said he hoped that China would respond positively to the request, despite recent Chinese protests over the Dalai Lama's visit to the United States.
"We are hoping for a positive response from the Chinese government. However we have no regrets if the response is otherwise. The main thing is sincerity in resolving the issue," Gyari said.
The Dalai Lama met U.S. President George W. Bush and other senior officials in his administration last week amid strong complaints from Beijing that he was using the United States as a base from which to carry out "separatist" activities.
China has lodged an official protest at the visit, and foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan called on the United States to keep its promise to acknowledge Tibet as a part of China and not to support Tibetan independence.
"The Chinese side urges the U.S. side to stop using the Tibet issue to interfere with China's internal affairs, so as to not harm China-U.S. relations," Kong said.
Gyari said he was still hopeful despite China's recent complaints. "We are hoping that the dialogue will move forward," he said. "From our side it is very crucial to make efforts as we did in the past."
But he said he was confused by the apparently mixed signals coming out of Beijing. "When I think of positive gestures of the Chinese officials and the leaders that we met during our last two visits, I do wonder sometimes about the recent Chinese official statements, which are contrary to that reality," Gyari said. "Therefore I do have doubts..."
The Dalai Lama's envoys have visited China twice in the past year, sparking hopes of a political solution that would enable the banished leader to return to his homeland, where he is widely revered. Both Washington and the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since 1959, say they do not favor Tibetan independence but greater autonomy for the Tibetan people.
Earlier, Gyari said the envoys had requested permission to visit China as early as next month.
"The whole purpose of talking with Chinese is not just for the sake of talking with China," he told a meeting with members of the U.S. House of Representatives. "The main purpose is to make a difference on the ground. That unfortunately we don't see. Many of you know, we have made tremendous efforts to create right atmosphere."
Gyari led a four-member delegation to China on May 25, which visited Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Yunnan provinces and parts of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. In September last year, the Dalai Lama's envoys visited China in the first direct contact between them since 1993.