South Africa should allow Dalai Lama visit: De Klerk

16th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate FW de Klerk urged the government Friday to allow exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama into the country.

"South Africa must decide on two things: is it an open society and secondly does it really respect religious figures?" he asked.

"He should be allowed to come," said De Klerk.

The spiritual leader has been invited by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to attend celebrations for his 80th birthday next month but Pretoria has yet to announce whether it will grant him a visa after denying him entry in 2009 for fear of angering Beijing.

Last week Tutu said the government will "shoot themselves in the foot" if they deny a visa to the Dalai Lama to please key trade partner China.

In 2009, Tutu criticised the decision to bar entry to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg, as the government explained it did not want to jeopardise relations with China.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

He says he wants better treatment for Tibetans and accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a "splittist" and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders.

De Klerk won a Nobel Peace Prize with South Africa's first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela in 1993.

He was the last president of apartheid South Africa, serving from 1989 to 1994 before his appointment as one of two deputy presidents under Mandela.

© 2011 AFP

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