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Exiled Tibetans said security forces had been rounding up political dissidents, and witnesses said there was a heavy police presence on the streets of Lhasa, which was described as tense but quiet yesterday.

In its most extensive statement to date on the violence, the Chinese government accused a “handful of unlawful elements” in Lhasa of instigating the latest violence, which came as Tibetans marked the 49th anniversary of a crackdown on a failed uprising against Chinese rule that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India.

The statement blamed the Dalai Lama and Tibetan “separatists” for instigating the violence, which the government said had left 13 “innocent civilians” dead.

“We hope the international community will recognize the fact that the Dalai clique instigated and plotted the incidents in Lhasa and other places with the intention to separate China and undermine the Olympic Games,” the government said.

Protesters and exile pro-Tibetan groups said that the unrest has spread to other cities with large Tibetan populations in western China and that the death toll could be as high as 80.

Anti-Chinese demonstrations have been held at Chinese embassies and diplomatic missions in the United States, Britain, Germany, Nepal and other countries.

Intended by Beijing as a showcase for China’s modernization and development, the Summer Games have given the regime’s critics a lever to move international opinion, even before protests erupted in Lhasa last week.

Activists have slammed China on issues ranging from its record on civil liberties to its close ties to Sudan and other repressive regimes.

Mark Malloch-Brown, Britain’s minister for Asian affairs, told BBC Television, “This is a China engaged with the world which is using the Olympics to demonstrate a new openness, and it risks all of that collapsing in on it if it is seen as being the enforcer of a crackdown on Tibetans.”

But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Bush, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and other Western leaders have all said they plan to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Over the weekend, the Dalai Lama, from his exile base in India, called for an international inquiry into China’s “rule of terror” and “cultural genocide.”

But to the frustration of some Tibetan exile groups, the Nobel Peace laureate has opposed an Olympic boycott.

China deserves to be a host of the Olympic Games,” he told reporters.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.