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China: Tibetans planning suicide bombs

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  • Suicide attacks are being planned by Tibetan militants, Chinese official says
  • Tibet's prime minister-in-exile denies allegation
  • Tibet is center of a struggle for power between China and exiled Tibet leaders
  • Pro-Tibet demonstrations threaten to overshadow Beijing's Summer Olympics
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(CNN) -- A Chinese official accused "Tibetan independence forces" Tuesday of planning suicide attacks, an allegation that the Tibetan government-in-exile immediately denied.

"To our knowledge the next plan of the Tibet Independence forces is to organize suicide squads to launch violent attacks," Wu Heping, spokesman for China's Ministry of Public Security, said at a news conference, according to a translation of his remarks by The Associated Press.

"They claim they fear neither bloodshed nor sacrifice," he said.

He did not provide details or evidence, and Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of Tibet's exiled government, dismissed the accusation.

"We never heard (of) Tibetan independence force, such a group or people. Now, our suspicion is that the PRC (People's Republic of China) might be staging such a violent act in the name of Tibetan people to mislead the world community," he said in Dharamsala, India.

Dharamsala is the center of the Tibetan community in India, where many Tibetans fled after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and where the government-in-exile led by the Dalai Lama is based.

"It is our ... suspicion, otherwise there is no ground to claim that some Tibetan people or group is planning to (use) suicide bombers or something like that," the Tibetan prime minister said.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese government to Rinpoche's suspicion.

In the U.S. State Department briefing on Tuesday, department spokesman Tom Casey said the United States did not share China's concern that supporters of the Dalai Lama were plotting suicide attacks.

The Dalai Lama is a "man of peace, there is absolutely no indication that he wants to do anything other than have a dialogue with China to discuss how to deal with some of the serious issues there," Casey said.

Beijing blames the Dalai Lama and his followers for violence that erupted amid protests for Tibetan independence last month. China has drawn international criticism for its crackdown on the demonstrations, which began peacefully on the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising.

The protests have threatened to throw a shadow on the Summer Olympic Games, being staged in Beijing in August.

Tibet's government-in-exile puts the death toll from the protests at about 140, but the Chinese government restrictions make it difficult to confirm that number. Chinese authorities have reported a death toll of 19, and say most of those killed were "innocent victims" -- Han Chinese targeted by Tibetans.

Protests have spread across the globe with regular demonstrations in Nepal. A ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece was also targeted by pro-Tibet activists. Video Watch protests in Nepal »

Also on Tuesday, China's official Xinhua news agency reported that the country's foreign ministry urged the Dalai Lama to "stop all separatist and sabotage activities if he really wants to contact and consult with the central government."

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu spoke in response to a March 28 statement from Dalai Lama.

In that statement, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists said he does not seek the separation of Tibet and has no desire to "sabotage" the Olympic Games.

"Chinese brothers and sisters, I assure you I have no desire to seek Tibet's separation. Nor do I have any wish to drive a wedge between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples," he wrote.

Instead, he said, the protesters seek "meaningful self-rule" while remaining a part of China. "Despite my repeated support for the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese authorities, with the intention of creating a rift between the Chinese people and myself, the Chinese authorities assert that I am trying to sabotage the games."

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He called on China to called "to exercise wisdom and to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the Tibetan people."

China offered some media organizations -- not including CNN -- a carefully managed tour of Tibet's capital, but ran into a public-relations roadblock when a group of Buddhist monks began screaming protests at a holy shrine. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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