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US President George W. Bush welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House despite Beijing’s stern objections and vowed strong support for the exiled spiritual leader’s efforts to start dialogue with China. Meanwhile, Beijing formally protested “wrongdoing” by Washington in deciding to allow Taiwanese President Chen Shuibian to stop in the United States en route to Latin America. China considers Taiwan a renegade province. While both US moves appeared likely to further strain Sino-US relations, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said that “the president continues to believe that we can work with China on issues where we have agreements, such as trade.” While the Dalai Lama’s visit appeared to fall squarely in the latter camp, White House officials took pains to describe it as a “private meeting” with a prominent — not political — figure, in an apparent bid to mollify China.

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