Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has appealed to Buddhist members of the Burmese military government to act in accordance with Buddhist teachings when faced with pro-democracy protests.

The Dalai Lama told VOA Tuesday he recognizes the Burmese democracy movement, led by Buddhist monks, as a just cause and said he supports it. He appealed to members of the military regime who believe in Buddhism to act in a spirit of compassion and non-violence.

Earlier Tuesday, President Bush met for about 30 minutes with the exiled spiritual leader on Tuesday, despite warnings from Beijing that the meeting will seriously damage U.S.-Chinese relations.

China has consistently challenged attempts by the Dalai Lama to meet with world leaders, accusing him of secretly promoting separatism.

Wednesday, President Bush will attend a ceremony at the Capitol Building in which the Dalai Lama is given the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest civilian award given by the U.S. Congress. China’s foreign minister says China asked Congress not to give him the award.

The Dalai Lama denies he is promoting separatism. Since the late-1980s, he has been calling on Beijing to hold talks to negotiate an autonomous status for Tibet.

In protest of the United States’ high-profile treatment of him, China has already pulled out of this week’s international talks in Germany on Iran’s nuclear program.

China made similar protests when German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Dalai Lama last month. Beijing later canceled annual human rights talks with Germany that were to be held in December.