updated 4/25/2008 5:17:06 AM ET 2008-04-25T09:17:06

After weeks of pressure from world leaders, the Chinese government said Friday it will meet with a private representative of the Dalai Lama soon.

The official Xinhua News Agency, which releases major government announcements, said it had learned of the development "from official sources." It quoted an unnamed official as saying there had been requests repeatedly made by "the Dalai side for resuming talks."

China has faced repeated international calls, including from President Bush and the European Union, to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama since anti-government riots rocked the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in mid-March.

The official said "the relevant department of the central government will have contact and consultation with Dalai's private representative in the coming days." No date was given.

"The policy of the central government towards Dalai has been consistent and the door of dialogue has remained open," he said.

Both the Foreign Ministry and the news office of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party said they did not know about the Xinhua report.

China says 22 people died in the Lhasa violence, while overseas Tibet supporters say many times that number have been killed in protests and the security crackdown across Tibetan regions of western China.

Shadow over Olympic preparations
The riots and government reaction have cast a shadow over preparations for the Beijing Olympics.

China has held six rounds of contacts with representatives of the Dalai Lama with no apparent result, and has demanded he meet numerous preconditions before it will talk to him directly.

‘Contact and consultation’
One of the preconditions is that he not seek independence for Tibet. The Tibetan spiritual leader has repeatedly said he wants autonomy, not independence, but Beijing has expressed suspicion.

"It is hoped that through contact and consultation, the Dalai side will take credible moves to stop activities aimed at splitting China, stop plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games so as to create conditions for talks," Xinhua quoted the official as saying.

Many Tibetans insist they were an independent nation before communist troops invaded in 1950, while China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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