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Norwegian Nobel Committee condemns visa refusal to Dalai Lama: Tibet group

March 25, 2009

By Kalsang Rinchen
March 23, 2009

Dharamsala, March 23 - Norwegian Nobel Committee will not take part
in the Nobel laureates' conference in South Africa if the Tibetan
leader Dalai Lama is not granted visa to South Africa, the Norwegian
Tibet Committee said today quoting Geir Lundestad, Director of the
Norwegian Nobel Committee.

"We will not take part in the conference unless His Holiness Dalai
Lama is granted visa," Geir Lundestad told Norwegian Tibetan Committee.

The South African government's refusal to grant visa to His Holiness
to attend the Nobel laureates' conference under pressure from the
People's Republic of China is unacceptable for the Norwegian Nobel
Committee, he said, according to the Norwegian Tibet Committee.

Meanwhile, the South African government has defended its decision
saying the visit had nothing to do with the status or position of the
Dalai Lama.

"The attention of the world is on South Africa because of it being
the host country for the 2010 World Cup, and we wouldn't want
anything to distract from that," reports quoted Thabo Masebe, the
chief spokesperson for President Kgalema Motlanthe, as saying.

Norwegian Tibet Committee said it is also trying to contact the
Norwegian national soccer team, which is scheduled to participate in
the Mandela Cup soccer match scheduled for March, 28.

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.

A report by China's state media Xinhua indicated that the decision to
deny visa had no Chinese influence. Ronnie Mamoepa of the South
African Department of Foreign Affairs reportedly said Sunday,
according to Xinhua, that it was an independent and sovereign
decision of the country (South Africa). However,The Sunday
Independent newspaper quoted China's minister counsellor at the
embassy in Pretoria, Dai Bing, as saying that his government had
urged South Africa to deny the visit, warning it would harm bilateral

The paper quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a spokesman for de Klerk
as saying they would reconsider their participation in the conference
if the Dalai Lama were not allowed to come.

"We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply
distressed and ashamed," Tutu told the paper.

De Klerk has expressed concern to the president and the foreign
ministry over the visa, said Dave Steward, spokesman for his foundation.

"If the visa is not granted, Mr de Klerk and other laureates will
reconsider their participation in the event, and this would not be a
good thing for South Africa and the World Cup," he told the paper.
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