Zuma praises Tutu on birthday, after Dalai Lama visa row

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South African President Jacob Zuma said Friday he respects Desmond Tutu and welcomes his advice, in a message on the archbishop's 80th birthday after a heated public feud about the Dalai Lama's visa woes.

"I would like to wish Archbishop Desmond Tutu a hearty birthday and a long and healthy life as he turns 80 years old today," Zuma said.

"Archbishop Tutu has a special place in the hearts of our people for the manner in which he stood up against the apartheid state, speaking out against injustice and oppression," he said.

"He has continued to play an important role in our country, and is admired by thousands of our people," Zuma said. "We respect him, love him and always welcome his counsel on issues."

Tutu, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent efforts to end white minority rule, launched a furious tirade against Zuma on Tuesday after the Dalai Lama cancelled a planned visit for the birthday celebrations, saying he had not yet received a visa.

He accused Zuma of kowtowing to China in barring the Tibetan spiritual leader, ignoring the values of the liberation struggle and threatened to pray for his downfall.

Zuma did not attend Tutu's birthday celebrations at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town on Friday, but Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe sat in the front pew.

Motlanthe had refused to wade into the visa row despite an appeal by Tutu, but during the service the two men embraced at the altar.

"Thank you so very much for coming, despite some of the hiccups that we have had," Tutu said.

"Even if you are in church and you are praying, we won't ask for what you are praying," he said, bursting into a fit of laughter.

© 2011 AFP

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