Dalai Lama set for DC talks but not with Obama

The Dalai Lama spends this week in Washington to confer with US lawmakers and hold a rare meeting reaching out to Chinese, but President Barack Obama will give him a cold shoulder.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, an itinerant traveler at age 74, arrives Monday in the US capital after two weeks around North America that featured spiritual teachings and an appearance with fellow Nobel laureates.

China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950, has been ramping up pressure on other nations not to receive the Buddhist monk. Obama sent a delegation to the Dalai Lama's home in exile in India last month that confirmed he would not meet him until after his first presidential trip to Beijing in November.

Activists said they expected a meeting to take place by year-end and voiced hope Obama would raise Tibet in China. But some Tibet supporters were fuming.

Congressman Frank Wolf called it a "dark, dark moment" and recalled hearing Tibetans' past accounts of torture at the Drapchi prison in the Himalayan territory.

"What would a Buddhist monk or Buddhist nun in Drapchi prison think when he heard that President Obama, the president of the United States, is not going to meet with the Dalai Lama?" said Wolf, a Republican and outspoken critic of China's rights record.

"It's against the law to even have a picture of the Dalai Lama. I can almost hear the words of the Chinese guards saying to them that nobody cares about you in the United States," Wolf said.

Tibetan prime minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche accused the United States and other Western nations of "appeasement" toward China as its economic weight grows.

Obama, who met with the Dalai Lama when he was a senator, has been seeking a broader relationship with China, which has emerged into the top holder of the ballooning US debt.

The Dalai Lama has met every sitting US president since George H.W. Bush in 1991. In Washington, he will see congressional leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longstanding supporter of the Tibetan cause.

He also plans to present an award to a group of Chinese who have tried to build bridges with Tibetans. Organizers declined to identify the honorees beforehand, fearing it could put them at personal risk.

Kate Saunders, communications director of the International Campaign for Tibet, which works closely with the Dalai Lama, said the Tibetan leader wanted to "show his commitment to engaging with China."

"This is an important visit to renew connections with congressional leaders and speak directly with Congress at a critical moment for Tibet," she said.

China last year put down some of the biggest protests by Tibetans in years in the run-up to the closely watched Beijing Olympics.

China has said "rioters" were responsible for 21 deaths, while saying that its security forces killed only one "insurgent."

However, the exiled Tibetan government has said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in China's subsequent crackdown.

China has since intensified pressure on the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of being a "splittist." The Dalai Lama espouses non-violence and says he is only seeking greater rights for Tibetans under Chinese rule.

"The fact that the Dalai Lama is even traveling around continues to upset China because his international profile has never died," he said.

A Chesapeake Bay Retriever competes in the diving dog competition of the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge, Oct. 3, 2009. AP Photo/Purina, Whitney Curtis