The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush, raising the ire of Beijing, called on Chinese leaders to welcome the Dalai Lama to the communist nation on Wednesday.
Bush called the Tibetan spiritual leader a "universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.''
"He has won the respect and affection of the American people,'' Bush said at the U.S. Capitol where the leader of Tibet's Buddhists received the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.
"America cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close their eyes or turn away,'' said Bush, who sat next to the Dalai Lama during the ceremony and personally handed the medal to him.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this was the first time a U.S. president has appeared in public with the Dalai Lama.
"It is a great honour for me to receive the Congressional Gold Medal,'' said the Dalai Lama, who delivered his remarks in English. "This recognition will bring tremendous joy and encouragement to the Tibetan people.''