The truce call by the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile was a friendly gesture to President Jiang Zemin, but the real impact remains to be seen. Professor Samdhong Rinpoche said in a circular on Monday that 'all Tibetans and friends of Tibet' should refrain from public protest when Mr Jiang visits the United States and Mexico later this month. The circular said: 'It will be a strong gesture for dialogue, non-violence and reconciliation during a time when the international community is threatened by terrorism, violence and war cries.' Chinese leaders overseas are often confronted by protests organised by exiled Tibetans and their supporters. Last month, National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng abandoned a visit to the Sydney Opera House apparently to avoid the protests. The latest detente between the Dalai Lama and Beijing has caught many observers by surprise. China has released some high-profile Tibetan political prisoners and softened its often highly personal criticism of the Tibetan spiritual leader. The elder brother of the Dalai Lama, Gyalo Thondup, was able to visit Tibet in July, followed by two special envoys sent by the Dalai Lama last month. But it is hard to say if the two sides have truly narrowed their differences. A statement by the envoys - Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, who represent the Dalai Lama in the US and Europe - said they had put forward 'the 'middle-way approach' advocated by the Dalai Lama for a topic of dialogue' and hoped their mission would pave the way for 'direct, face-to-face meetings on a regular basis' that would 'lead to a mutually acceptable solution'. The Dalai Lama suggested the 'middle-way approach' in France, in June 1988, saying he did not seek independence for Tibet but envisaged turning all Tibet - including parts of Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan and Xinjiang - into a 'genuinely autonomous Tibet'. Beijing has rejected the proposal and accused the Dalai Lama of trying to deceive the international community. China has emphasised that it will not accept the Dalai Lama's definition of 'all Tibet' and has demanded the spiritual leader acknowledge that both Tibet and Taiwan were parts of the country as a pre-condition for talks. However, there are subtle signs of progress. Last Thursday, a spokesman said the Dalai Lama wished to make a pilgrimage to Wutai Mountain in Shanxi province. Beijing suggested four years ago that the Dalai Lama could meet Mr Jiang at the mountain, although the proposal did not materialise and critics said the offer was a public relations ploy to impress Washington. Observers are more hopeful this time, saying there were 'real, substantial steps' taken by Beijing that went far beyond public relations gimmicks.