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Mar 19, 2008 at 01:31am IST

China: Dalai Lama led followers to violence

New Delhi: On a day when reports said that close to 1,000 Tibetans had been detained all over Lhasa and army garrisons put on high alert, China's Premier, Wen Jiabao, held an unprecedented press conference for any Chinese leader in Beijing.

For over more than an hour, he offered the olive branch to the Dalai Lama, indicating China was open to talks. However, at the same time, Jiabao accused the Dalai Lama of inciting his followers to violence.

"The incident has disrupted normal life in Lhasa. It was planned and people were incited by the Dalai Lama. It shows that the Dalai Lama does not want a dialogue," Jiabao said.

The Dalai Lama was not impressed and said "it was time to re-explore the question of independence from China".

"If the majority of Tibetians one day decide through a a referendum that they want independence, then His Holiness will respect that decision," Information Secretary of the Government in Exile, Thubten Samphel says.

However, Tibet's spiritual leader also made it known he was against violence of any kind and was prepared to resign on that score.

"If things go out of control, then my only option is complete resignation," says the Dalai Lama.

But in Dharamshala, rage and anguish ruled as reports claimed that 19 Tibetans had been killed in Gansu province alone. Tibetan exiles claimed 80 people have been killed so far.

More ominously though, China-Tibetan activists are now demanding that the Olympic Torch should not pass through the troubled region.

Reports trickling in from Lhasa could add to the fire. The local prisons are full and a new detention centre has opened outside the city and Beijing's threat of a unleashing a peoples' war on Tibet may have only just begun.

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