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Dalai Lama calls for end to violence in Tibet
BEIJING (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama said on Tuesday he would step down as head of Tibet's government-in-exile if that would stop bloodshed in his homeland, but China repeated its charge that he was the mastermind of a violent uprising.
His officials, based in the Indian Himalayan foothills, said they believed 99 people had died in clashes between Chinese security forces and Tibetans over the past week, including 19 on Tuesday alone.
Chinese state-run media said more than 100 people had given themselves up to police after taking part in Tibet's most intense unrest against Chinese rule for nearly two decades.
Baima Chilin, vice chairman of the Chinese-run government of Tibet, said they had been "participants, and some were directly involved in beating, smashing, looting and arson".
Authorities had set a Monday midnight deadline for rioters to hand themselves in or face tougher punishment if caught.
Premier Wen Jiabao defended the crackdown on Lhasa, capital of the mainly Buddhist mountain region, and on ethnic Tibetan areas of neighbouring provinces where protests have erupted.
"There is ample fact and plenty of evidence proving this incident was organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," Wen told a news conference in Beijing.
"This has all the more revealed the consistent claims by the Dalai clique that they pursue not independence but peaceful dialogue are nothing but lies."
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, denied the charges and said he would quit as political leader of the exiled Tibetan movement if the violence got out of hand.
"Please help stop violence from Chinese side and also from Tibetan side," the Nobel peace laureate told a news conference in Dharamsala, northern India. "If things become out of control then my only option is to completely resign."
He has said he cannot give up his role as Dalai Lama, the reincarnated spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He says he does not seek independence for Tibet but wants autonomy within China, which sent troops into the region in 1950.
After days of anti-China protests led by monks, the unrest in Lhasa turned violent on Friday.
Mobs attacked non-Tibetan Chinese in the streets and set fire to shops and cars, in scenes sure to horrify a Chinese Communist leadership anxious to present an image of national harmony in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics.
The Dalai Lama's spokesman Tenzin Taklha said the rioting had spread fast. "This was very spontaneous," he said.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen told a U.S. Congressional advisory panel hearing Washington had seen no evidence rioting was orchestrated by the Dalai Lama.
There have been reports of further demonstrations this week. An exiled rights group, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, said on its Web site (www.tchrd.org) on Tuesday that 30 people had been arrested after protesting near Lhasa.
The group also reported three small protests and a massive military presence in Litang, an ethnic Tibetan town in Sichuan province, next to Tibet. Litang has seen unrest in the past.
Reuters was unable to confirm the reports. Phone calls to officials were not answered and foreign media are barred from travelling to Tibet without permission.
Chinese authorities have said security forces exercised restraint in Lhasa, using only non-lethal weapons, and that just 13 "innocent civilians" died.
Wen said the protesters "wanted to incite the sabotage of the Olympic Games in order to achieve their unspeakable goal".
The rights group Reporters Without Borders urged officials to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony in August over the "brutal repression" in Tibet. "Let's consider it," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a news conference.
No government has called for a boycott of the Games themselves. But in Taiwan, presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Nationalists told reporters he would consider an Olympic boycott if elected on Saturday.
The International Tibet Support Network handed a letter to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne calling for the route of the torch relay carrying the Olympic flame to be changed to avoid Tibet and three neighbouring provinces.
In Brussels, a demonstrator was injured and four were detained when exiled Tibetans tried to force their way into China's mission to the European Union, police said. About 100 people protested in front of the Norwegian parliament.
Chinese authorities said they believed a March 7 "terrorist" incident, in which a flight to Beijing from the restive Xinjiang region had to cut short its journey, was a failed attack by separatists based abroad, state media reported.
Militant ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, neighbouring Tibet, have long agitated for an independent "East Turkestan" for their largely Muslim people. Exiled Uighurs have said China concocted the March 7 case to justify intense controls on Uighurs.
(Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim and Guo Shipeng in Beijing, Jonathan Allen in Dharamsala, Marine Hass in Brussels, Paul Eckert in Washington and Francois Murphy in Paris)
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