Obama condemns those who seek to 'hijack religion'

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Obama condemns those who seek to 'hijack religion'
U.S. President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama exchanged greetings but did not meet directly at a religious event in Washington closely watched by Beijing, which has warned against any meetings with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. Both figures were at an annual prayer breakfast in Washington where Obama was scheduled to speak about the importance of religious freedom. The Dalai Lama also attended, seated at a table in the front row across from the president.
President Barack Obama bows his head towards the Dalai Lama as he was recognized during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. The annual event brings together U.S. and international leaders from different parties and religions for an hour devoted to faith. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The Dalai Lama (2nd R) listens as US President Barack Obama appears on a televison screen (L) as he speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, February 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, right, talks with the Dalai Lama during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. The annual event brings together U.S. and international leaders from different parties and religions for an hour devoted to faith. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. The president condemned those who seek to use religion as a rationale for carrying out violence around the world, declaring Thursday that "no god condones terror." (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. The president condemned those who seek to use religion as a rationale for carrying out violence around the world, declaring Thursday that "no god condones terror." (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama applauds as first lady Michelle Obama hugs former NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. The annual event brings together U.S. and international leaders from different parties and religions for an hour devoted to faith. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama bow their heads in prayer during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015,. The annual event brings together U.S. and international leaders from different parties and religions for an hour devoted to faith. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama speak during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, February 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama smiles as server Kitty Casey (L) serves him a drink during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, February 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama laughs alongside US Senator Bob Casey (C), Democrat of Pennsylvania, as former NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip (R) tells a story during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, February 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama condemned those who seek to use religion as a rationale for carrying out violence around the world, declaring Thursday that "no god condones terror."

"We are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends," Obama said during remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. He singled out the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, calling the militants a "death cult," as well as those responsible for last month's terror attacks in Paris and deadly assault on a school in Pakistan.

Among those attending the annual gathering of politicians, dignitaries and faith leaders was the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. As with the Dalai Lama's past visits to Washington, his attendance at Thursday's breakfast drew criticism from Beijing, which sees him as an anti-Chinese separatist because of his quest for greater Tibetan autonomy.

Obama and the Dalai Lama did not have a formal meeting planned. Still, the president made note of the Dalai Lama's presence at the breakfast, calling him a "powerful example of what it means to practice compassion."

In a show of White House support for the Dalai Lama, he was seated at a table with Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's closest advisers.

The Dalai Lama fled to exile in India after a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, and Bejing regards U.S. dealings with him as interference in China's internal affairs.

"Tibet-related issues concern China's core interest and national feelings," said Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a daily briefing on Tuesday. "We oppose to foreign countries' interfering with China's internal affairs and meeting with the Dalai Lama. We hope the U.S. leader can look at the bigger picture of the relations and properly handle this issue."

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