S.Africa peace event put off after Dalai Lama ban

Tue Mar 24, 2009 12:01pm GMT

By Agnieszka Flak

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African peace conference of Nobel laureates has been postponed after the government denied a visa to Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, organisers said on Tuesday.

Several Nobel peace prize winners had threatened to boycott the event over the visa ban, but the government said it was standing by its decision. Local media said the visa was refused after pressure from China, a big investor and trade partner.

South Africa said it was not influenced by China.

The conference, due to take place on March 27, was organised by soccer authorities in South Africa, the host of the 2010 World Cup, and was expected to use soccer as a way of fighting xenophobia and racism ahead of the tournament.

"We have decided to postpone the peace conference until further notice," said Irvin Khoza, South Africa 2010 Organising Committee chairman. He said it would be postponed until all those invited could attend.

The Dalai Lama was invited to participate in the conference by fellow Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

Government spokesman Thabo Masebe said the Dalai Lama's presence was not in South Africa's best interest at the moment.

"We stand by our decision. Nothing is going to change. The Dalai Lama will not be invited to South Africa. We will not give him a visa between now and the World Cup," he said.   Continued...

<p>Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama speaks during a news conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising that prompted his flight into exile, in the northern Indian hill town of Mcleodganj March 10, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli</p>
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