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24.03.2009 International

Dalai Lama ban delays conference

By BBC


A peace conference for Nobel laureates in South Africa has been postponed over the government's refusal to allow the Dalai Lama to attend, organisers said.

This week's meeting in Johannesburg was linked to the 2010 Football World Cup, which the country is hosting.

A storm of controversy erupted over the ban, with the government being accused of bowing to Chinese pressure.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President FW de Klerk pulled out of the meeting in protest.

The conference was intended to discuss football's role in fighting racism and xenophobia.

"The convenors have... decided in the spirit of peace to postpone the South African peace conference to ensure it is held under conducive conditions," Irvin Khoza, one of the sponsors of the meeting, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Mr Khoza said the South African government had "persuaded" the Dalai Lama to postpone his visit.

A government spokesman said on Monday that the Dalai Lama's visit would distract attention from South Africa's hosting of the World Cup.

"Given that the purpose of the conference is peace, the convenors do not wish to put the Nobel peace committee under circumstances that would create conflict between the committee and its laureates," Mr Khoza added.

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