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Bush urges China to talk to Vatican

President Bush urged China on yesterday to talk with the Vatican as he appealed to Beijing to take strides toward relaxing religious controls.

In a rare and unscripted moment of candor during a press conference, Chinese President Jiang Zemin said he had read the Bible, the Koran and Buddhist scriptures despite being a non-believer.

Bush also pleased with Zemin to engage with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama

Beijing had always protected such freedoms in its constitution, Jiang said.

Asked twice by reporters about why Beijing had imprisoned more than 50 Roman Catholic bishops, Jiang replied: "Whatever religion people believe in, they have to abide by the law. So some of the law-breakers have been detained because of their violation of law, not because of their religious beliefs.

"Although, I'm the President of this country, I have no right interfering in the judicial affairs because of judicial independence," said Jiang.

Bush urged Jiang to open talks with the Dalai Lama and Vatican in a long and extensive exchange on religious freedoms, US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice told reporters.