Chinese set to name their tame lama

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Tibetans will be faced with two alternative Panchen Lamas after the Chinese government last night opted for direct public conflict with the Dalai Lama over the choice of the second holiest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. "The Chinese are set on confrontation," said Robbie Barnett at the London- based Tibet Information Network.

Through the official Xinhua news agency, the government said that a shortlist of three boys had been agreed at a meeting of more than 70 lamas which ended in Peking at the weekend. The final determination will be made at a religious ceremony in Lhasa during which a name will be drawn from a golden urn to identify the reincarnated Panchen Lama, said Xinhua. The name would be forwarded to the government for approval. President Jiang Zemin has urged that the child be chosen "at an early date".

The list of three candidates, who have not yet been identified by the Chinese, does not include six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, named in May by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation.