President Bush has called on Chinese leaders to open talks with the Dalai Lama -- as the Tibetan spiritual leader received the highest civilian honor the U.S. Congress can bestow.
Mr. Bush said Wednesday that Beijing would find the Dalai Lama to be a man of peace and reconciliation. The president directly gave the 72-year-old Buddhist monk the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol rotunda, despite strong protests from Beijing.
In remarks to hundreds of people assembled there, the Dalai Lama thanked Americans for their unwavering support for the Tibetan people. He said the congressional award will send a powerful message to those promoting peace, understanding and harmony.
In his remarks, the Dalai Lama reiterated his desire for the Tibetan people to have meaningful autonomy within China. China condemned the ceremony as a farce. In protest, it pulled out of U.S.-sponsored international talks this week on Iran's nuclear program. Last month, Beijing canceled annual human rights talks with Germany that were to be held in December after German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama.