Obama holds talks with Dalai Lama despite China protest The Tibetan spiritual leader last met President Obama in February 2010 US President Barack Obama is holding talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, despite strong criticism from China. China's foreign ministry earlier urged Mr Obama to cancel the White House engagement. The private discussion was intended to show Mr Obama's support for Tibet's identity, the White House said. Mr Obama's last meeting with the Dalai Lama in February 2010 also drew strong condemnation from Beijing. An aide to the Dalai Lama said the talks - which were expected to last half an hour - were held in the Map Room rather than the Oval Office, which is traditionally reserved for visiting heads of state. Announcing the meeting earlier, the White House said in a statement: "This meeting underscores the president's strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans. "The president will highlight his enduring support for dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government to resolve differences." It comes just hours before the Dalai Lama is scheduled to leave Washington at the end of an 11-day Buddhist ritual. China had warned the US not to receive the Dalai Lama, saying that Mr Obama "could harm US-Chinese relations" if the talks went ahead. A Chinese foreign ministry statement said: "We firmly oppose any senior foreign government officials meeting with the Dalai Lama in any way." The White House has not commented on Beijing's displeasure. The Chinese authorities have long vilified the Dalai Lama as a "splittist", although he has repeatedly stated that his goal is for meaningful Tibetan autonomy rather than independence.