Ignoring strong Chinese objections, United States President Barack Obama on Thursday met the Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama, at the White House.

Mr. Obama expressed ''strong support'' for human rights and Tibet's ''unique'' linguistic, cultural and religious identity during the meeting.

''The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China,'' White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

''The President commended the Dalai Lama's ''Middle Way'' approach, his commitment to non-violence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government,'' Mr. Gibbs said in a statement.

''The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks.

''The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China.''

The two Nobel Peace laureates met away from cameras in the Map Room. The U.S. administration termed it a low-key, private meeting, but an angry China warned that it could worsen relations between the Pacific powers.

The Map Room in the mansion is the place where Presidents stage private meetings and the parleys with the Dalai Lama are not taking place at the more stately Oval Office where Mr. Obama frequently meets with world leaders.

On arrival here on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama's special envoy, Lodi Gyari, said the religious leader would speak about Tibet, and the two were also likely to discuss global concerns. ''His Holiness will be asking the President to help find a solution in resolving the Tibet issue that would be mutually beneficial to the Tibetan and Chinese people,'' Mr. Gyari said.

More In: International | News