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12feb2010.1Dharamshala: Despite strong warnings and objections from Beijing, US President Barack Obama will meet Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama for the first at the White House on February 18, White House confirmed on Thursday.

"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious leader and spokesman for Tibetan rights, and the president looks forward to an engaging and constructive dialogue," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

US-China relations have hit a bad patch recently over the issues of arms sale to Taiwan, Google dispute and His Holiness's meeting with President Obama.

"We have a mature enough relationship with the Chinese that we can agree on issues that are of mutual interest, but we also have a mature enough relationship that we know the two countries on this planet are not always going to agree on everything, and we'll have those disagreements," Gibbs further said.

Obama had postponed a meeting with the exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama last autumn, not wanting to upset relations ahead of his maiden state visit to Beijing. And His Holiness said he understood the President's position, and did not want to "cause any inconvenience to anybody."

"While we recognize that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have." Obama said after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing.

China, which has controlled Tibet since its so-called People's Liberation Army first occupied the nation in the 1950s, has repeatedly accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama of leading a campaign to split the Tibet from the rest of the country.

The 74-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader is due in the United States for a 10-day trip later this month. He will be in Washington from February 17 to 19.

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