The Dalai Lama on Tuesday decried violent protests in China-controlled Tibet, threatening to resign as the head of the territory's government-in-exile if the bloodshed isn't brought under control.
Meanwhile, China's premier Wen Jiabao denounced the Dalai Lama's supporters in Tibet as separatists and blamed them for initiating the bloodshed that has left at least 16 people — and as many as 80 — dead, according to reports from Chinese authorities and the Tibetan government in exile.
Wen accused the protesters of wanting to sabotage of the upcoming Beijing-hosted Olympic games.
Speaking to reporters from his base in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, urged his countrymen to show restraint.
He said that "if things become out of control," his "only option is to completely resign."
Later, one of his top aides clarified the Dalai Lama's comments.
"If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence, he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence," Tenzin Taklha said. "He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama."
The recent protests in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, led by monks, began peacefully March 10 on the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule that prompted the Dalai Lama's flight to India in 1959. But the demonstrations grew increasingly violent, culminating Friday with widespread street violence.
While the situation inside Tibet remains unclear, much of the violence appears to have been committed by Tibetans attacking ethnic Han Chinese, the majority ethnicity in China. Since Friday, worries have grown that Chinese troops trying to reassert control over Lhasa were exacting retribution against the Tibetans.
The Dalai Lama also called on Tibetan exiles beginning a six-month march from India to Lhasa to stop their march at the border.
"Will you get independence? What's the use?" he asked.
On Tuesday, the India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said thousands of Tibetans converged in the streets in Seda, a county seat in the southern province of Sichuan, and the situation was "extremely tense."
Sichuan, which borders Tibet, has seen other sympathy protests in recent days.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press