GEORGE Bush, the US president, has personally asked Hu Jintao, president of China, to begin "substantive dialogue" with the Dalai Lama, the White House said last night.
Mr Bush also urged Mr Hu to allow access for journalists and diplomats to Tibet, in what is the highest diplomatic approach yet.
Earlier, Beijing had accused Michael Portillo, the former UK defence secretary, of delivering an "insult to the Chinese people" after he compared the Beijing Olympics to Hitler's 1936 Games in Nazi Germany.
In a statement, Qin Gang, the foreign ministry spokesman, criticised an article by Mr Portillo published in a Sunday newspaper.
"It is an insult to the Chinese people and an insult to the people of every nation of the world," Mr Qin said.
In his article, Mr Portillo invoked the use of the Berlin Olympics as a "showcase for Nazism", and he admonished world leaders for ignoring China's human rights record
The first group of foreign journalists to visit Tibet since rioting there earlier this month arrived in Lhasa yesterday on a strictly controlled tour, part of a government effort to demonstrate that life is back to normal despite the heavy police presenc
The visit came as Chinese state media announced the surrender of more than 600 people who took part in the anti-government protests in Lhasa and in Sichuan province.
The group of 26 reporters were closely watched during the trip, and a bus drive from the airport passed three police checkpoints.
Single police officers were also stationed at almost every crossroads on the way.
At one checkpoint about five uniformed officers were stopping cars. One officer, Cun Luobu, said they were only checking "for people not wearing seat belts, for violating traffic rules and for having fake number plates."
Armed police in camouflage uniforms were stationed at government offices, with machine guns strapped across their chests.
The government says at least 22 people have died in Lhasa. Tibetan rights groups say nearly 140 Tibetans were killed, including 19 in Gansu province.