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The US State Department has announced that President Barack Obama's new Tibet Coordinator, Maria Otero, will meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington this week. Ms Otero is Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. Last Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed her as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

A written announcement said Ms Otero would coordinate government policies and programmes on Tibetan issues "within the context" of the US bilateral relationship with Beijing, and seek to foster an environment for substantive discussion between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government, as well as support initiatives to help safeguard Tibet's "unique culture".

Last month, China said it "firmly opposed" any meetings between foreign officials and the Dalai Lama, after top Obama aides met the Tibetan spiritual leader in India.

Beijing also issued a veiled warning to the White House against an eventual meeting between Obama and His Holiness, who is seen by China as a “splittist” and "wolf in monk's robes" who seeks independence for Tibet, despite his repeated calls for only regional autonomy.

His Holiness has met every sitting US President since George W Bush in 1991, but will not be invited to meet President Obama during his week-long Washington visit. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters that President Obama will "meet the Dalai Lama at a mutually agreeable time,” adding, “I think there was an announcement that it would be after his trip to China” in mid-November.

President Obama’s decision not to meet His Holiness prompted Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche to accuse the United States of appeasement. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the US is "kowtowing" to Beijing by putting off the meeting.

But His Holiness’  envoy Lodi Gyari said the Dalai Lama was "taking a broader and long-term perspective" and agreed to the postponement in the hope that a cooperative US-China relationship would help resolve Tibetans' grievances.

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