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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

New South Africa gov’t welcomes Dalai Lama visit any time

May 19, 2009

Tibetan Review
May 17, 2009

In a turnaround from its controversial decision
to refuse him a visa to attend a peace conference
related to the 2010 Soccer World Cup in the
country in Mar’09, South Africa, with a
re-elected African National Congress government,
has welcomed the Dalai Lama to visit the country
at any time, reported Independent Online (South
Africa) May 14. "The Dalai Lama is more than
free, like any other citizen of the world who
would want to, to visit South Africa. South
Africa does not discriminate against anyone,"
Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, the newly appointed
International Relations and Co-operation Minister, was quoted as saying.

She was reported to have added, however, that
nobody may abuse the country's pro-human rights
stance for their own agenda, noting the country’s
foreign policy was "underpinned by human rights,
but that does not mean it can be misinterpreted
in the interests of certain quarters".

Nkoane-Mashabane had also said South Africa hoped
to strengthen ties with China and foresaw no
change in policy towards the country. "We've got
very sound relations with China and that needs to
be strengthened and we will do so."

Earlier, despite a massive furore of criticisms
not only from the organizers and participants in
the peace conference, which was postponed
indefinitely due to boycotts by Nobel Peace
Laureates, but also by a government minister, the
opposition, civil society groups and the media,
government spokesman Thabo Masebe had said no
visa would be issued "between now and the World
Cup", which South Africa is hosting. The
government claimed the Dalai Lama’s presence
would distract attention from the World Cup.

The peace conference was meant to discuss using
football to fight racism as South Africa gears up
for the 2010 World Cup, but was cancelled as
South African Nobel laureates FW de Klerk and
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, besides the Nobel Peace
Committee Secretary, pulled out in protest against the government decision.

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane, said the decision to bar the
Tibetan leader’s attendance at the aborted peace
conference, which caused a global furore, was
badly communicated, noted the AFP May 15.
Appointed only days earlier to newly elected
President Jacob Zuma's cabinet, the new minister
said she wanted to clarify the position, reported BBC News online May 15.

South African Friends of Tibet welcomed the
government’s new position while pointing out that
the Dalai Lama had never abused the hospitality
of countries by raising the Tibet issue in an
"inciteful" way, noted Daily News (South Africa) May 15.
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