By FOSTER KLUG
WASHINGTON - The Dalai Lama's special envoy said Friday the exiled leader of Tibet's Buddhists will use a prestigious congressional award ceremony next week to appeal to China's leaders to resolve the dispute over Tibet.
Lodi Gyari told reporters at the National Press Club that China, which has protested strongly the award for the man they see as a separatist, should not worry that the Dalai Lama will push for Tibetan independence.
"I do hope the Chinese will see this as a good opportunity," Gyari said. He added that the Dalai Lama hoped Beijing will have an "undiluted opportunity" to hear his message.
"We are not talking about independence," he said. "We are talking about Tibetans having complete freedom when it comes to matters of religion" and culture.
U.S. President George W. Bush will speak at the ceremony Wednesday to present the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said the award ceremony and a planned meeting with Bush are examples of "gross interference in China's internal affairs."
"We do hope the U.S. side will change its ideas and not award the medal," he said in an interview.
The Dalai Lama has been based in India since fleeing his Himalayan homeland in 1959 during a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that period.
The Dalai Lama insists he wants "real autonomy," not independence for Tibet, but Beijing continues to accuse him of seeking to split the region from China.
On Thursday, the Dalai Lama dismissed Chinese objections that he is a "separatist."
"The Tibetan cause is a cause of justice, and that's something that cannot fade away," the Dalai Lama told a large gathering of Buddhist faithful at a convention center in New York City. "That is the nature of truth — that it cannot die with time and with the change of generations."
Weeping as she sat in a wheelchair, 89-year-old Ang Phurba said: "I feel so satisfied, I feel so blessed. Now, I have no fear when I die. I will be reborn with him as the leader."
On Friday, China accused the Dalai Lama of causing an attack on its embassy in New Delhi, India. About 30 Tibetan exiles stormed the embassy on Wednesday, with several chaining themselves to a flagpole while others sprayed "Free Tibet" in red paint on walls and the main gate, witnesses said.
The Tibetans were protesting a recent Chinese order that Beijing must approve all of Tibet's spiritual leaders, known as lamas. For centuries, the search for the reincarnation of lamas — including Tibet's spiritual head, the Dalai Lama — has been carried out by select Tibetan monks.
"The Dalai Lama clique will seek every opportunity available to stir up trouble and disturb and destroy the stability and development of China's Tibetan Autonomous Region," China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik in New York, Gavin Rabinowitz in New Delhi and Scott McDonald in Beijing contributed to this story.