Buddhist Monks Welcome Dalai Lama in Border Monastery

  Buddhist monks and nuns brushed up their monasteries and hung up welcome banners Friday in anticipation of the Dalai Lama's contentious visit to a remote Indian town near the Tibetan frontier.

  China has strongly protested the Dalai Lama's visit starting Sunday to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which lies at the heart of a long-running border dispute between the two Asian powers. The visit also brings the Tibetan spiritual leader to the edge of his Himalayan homeland, which China controls.

  Regardless of the political tensions, the residents of Tawang see the visit as a rare opportunity to host the Buddhist leader.

  Buddhist monks painted roofs Friday while nuns scrubbed the floors of monasteries. Young monks climbed scaffolding to hang up multicolored banners with pictures of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who last visited in 2003.

  "The air is filled with a religious and festive fervor," Lama Lopon, one of the head priests of the main Tawang Monastery, told reporters.

  The Dalai Lama is scheduled to lead a three-day prayer session in Tawang for 20,000 followers from the region and the neighboring Himalayan countries of Bhutan and Nepal.

  On Thursday, India effectively barred foreign journalists from covering the event, in an apparent effort to ease Chinese anger by reducing news coverage of the trip.

  China and India claim vast swaths of each other's territory along their 2,175-mile (3,500 kilometer) border, which has remained largely peaceful since a border war in 1962. Over the last few years, officials from the two countries have conducted 13 rounds of talks to resolve the dispute over the border but have made scant progress.

  The Associated Press has contributed to the report.

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