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U.S. Ambassador to China James Lilley says he regrets calling demonstrators against Chinese human-rights abuses "cowards" and suggesting that one man, a Tibetan, "go back to China and serve China."

Lilley said the protesters provoked him by calling him an obscene name.

"It was a mistake in the first place," Lilley said of Saturday night's incident before he addressed Chinese and American delegates at a Sino-U.S. trade conference. "I shouldn't have done it."

U.S. Rep. John Miller, R-Wash., earlier Sunday said Lilley should apologize. Miller said protesters who returned to China could face arrest, trial and execution for speaking out in favor of democracy.

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