- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

BEIJING — Prime Minister Wen Jiabao yesterday offered to take foreign journalists to Tibet when calm returns to the region, and he called recent violence a plot to ruin the Olympics.

The absence of foreign correspondents from Tibet and adjacent provinces has created a vacuum, allowing Chinese and exiled Tibetans to trade charges that reporters thousands of miles away are unable to verify.

Yesterday was no exception.

Mr. Wen stepped up to the microphone for his annual press conference at the end of a two-week session of China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing and spoke to a mixed audience of Chinese and foreign reporters.

“There is ample evidence proving it was a premeditated event masterminded and incited by the Dalai [Lama] clique,” Mr. Wen said of violence that began last week with a protest by Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

“By staging that incident, they want to undermine the Beijing Olympics Games,” Mr. Wen said.

From exile in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama urged his followers to remain peaceful, saying he would resign as head of Tibet’s government-in-exile if the situation spun out of control.

But he also suggested that the Chinese may have fomented the protests in Tibet and neighboring provinces in order to discredit him, according to a dispatch by the Associated Press.

At Mr. Wen’s press conference in Beijing, none of the Chinese journalists asked about Tibet. Western reporters, on the other hand, pressed Mr. Wen about access to the Himalayan region, where Westerners have been banned since the outbreak of protests on March 10.

Mr. Wen said the situation is “returning to normal quiet and calm,” and “Lhasa will be reopened to the rest of the world.”

“We shall certainly consider the possibility of organizing foreign media to go to Tibet and see on the ground what has happened,” he said.

The protests have focused world attention on China’s human rights record ahead of the Beijing Olympics. The communist government wants to ensure that the Aug. 8-24 games boost its international image.

Sports officials from the European Union, Russia, the United States and Australia have ruled out an Olympic boycott.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said yesterday, however, that the EU should consider boycotting the opening ceremony if violence continues in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama urged nonviolence on both sides.

“I say to China and the Tibetans — don’t commit violence,” the Nobel laureate told reporters. He suggested the Chinese themselves may have had a hand in it to discredit him.

“It’s possible some Chinese agents are involved there,” he said. “Sometimes totalitarian regimes are very clever, so it is important to investigate.”

He said that “if things become out of control,” his “only option is to completely resign.”

Later, one of his top aides clarified the Dalai Lama’s comments.

“If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence, he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence,” Tenzin Taklha said. “He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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