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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Peace summit shelved after outcry over Dalai Lama snub

March 25, 2009

PETER FABRICIUS and Agencies
Cape Argus (South Africa)
March 24, 2009

A prestigiou 2010 peace conference involving Nobel Peace prize
laureates has been shelved following an outcry that erupted followed
a decision by the South African government to deny the Dalai Lama a visa.

"The conference has been postponed," Altaaf Kazi, general manager, of
communications at the Premier Soccer League confirmed at noon today
after an emergency meeting of the organisers this morning.

The conference was to be held in Johannesburg on Friday as part of
the celebrations leading up to the 2010 World Cup.

The PSL, one of the conference's organising bodies, met this morning
after the withdrawal of all invited Nobel Peace Prize laureates,
including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former president F W de Klerk.

Other committee members of the Nobel Peace Committee also planned to
withdraw if the Dalai Lama was not granted a visa, the committee's
director, Geir Lundestad, said today.

"We have made that perfectly clear," he said in a phone interview.

Ian Macfarlane, of the South Africans Friends of Tibet, hailed the
decision to postpone the conference as a "victory for ubuntu and
democracy in South Africa and worldwide. But now the real work begins".

He said that thousands of South Africans and others had expressed
their outrage against the government's decision to withhold a visa to
the Dalai Lama, in an online petition run by his organisation.

Tutu and De Klerk announced they would not participate unless the
Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet and a fellow Nobel
Peace Prize winner, was given a visa.

It emerged yesterday that the current Nobel Peace Prize holder,
former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, had pulled out of the
conference last week because his wife was ill.

This left no laureates taking part in the programme.

The government stuck to its guns yesterday saying that it did not
want the Dalai Lama in the country for the event - because,
government spokesman Thabo Masebe said, it would "divert attention"
from South Africa's World Cup celebrations.

It was widely believed, however, that the government had refused the
Dalai Lama a visa under pressure from the People's Republic of China,
which had annexed Tibet and claimed sovereignty over the tiny
Himalayan country.

The Dalai Lama, living in exile, is a staunch opponent of Chinese
control over Tibet.

It was believed that Nelson Mandela was also expected to participate
in the conference, but Nelson Mandela Foundation spokeswoman Sahm
Venter said yesterday that the former president had never been on the
programme.

She confirmed, however, that Mandela, Tutu and De Klerk had issued
invitations to the conference to the Dalai Lama, Ahtisaari and other
laureates on behalf of the PSL.- Additional reporting by Esther Lewis
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