Peace conference called off over Dalai Lama visa row

Phayul[Tuesday, March 24, 2009 17:23]
Dharamsala, March 24 – The organizers postponed the peace conference in South Africa after denial of visa to the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama attracted strong criticism from opposition party and condemnation worldwide.

“We have decided to postpone the peace conference until further notice,” Reuters quoted Irvin Khoza, South Africa 2010 Organizing Committee chairman, as saying Tuesday. He said it would be postponed until all those invited could attend.

Reuters reported that several Nobel peace prize winners had threatened to boycott the event over the visa ban, but the South African government said it was standing by its decision. South Africa’s Local media said the visa was refused after pressure from China, a big investor and trade partner.

The 73 year old Tibetan Nobel laureate was to join other winners of the prestigious peace prize including Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk at a conference Friday to discuss ways of using soccer to fight racism and xenophobia, as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup.

Government spokesman Thabo Masebe had told the media that 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.

The decision to refuse the Dalai Lama a visa has come under severe criticism from opposition parties in a country which has prided itself as a model of democracy and human rights since the end of apartheid in 1994.

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

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