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SAfrica says Dalai is free to visit the country

world Updated: May 15, 2009 14:17 IST

South Africa's new Minister of International Relations and Co-Operation has said that their country does not discriminate against any body and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama is free to visit the nation at any time.

"As far as the issue of the Dalai Lama is concerned we did not communicate clearly at first as to what transpired," Maite Nkoane-Mashabaneshe said.

"We think by now we have given South Africans enough opportunity to clarify as to what had happened, that this country discriminates against no one and that the Dalai Lama is more than free, like any other citizen of the globe, to visit our country," she said.

Nkoane-Mashabane, who was appointed to her position by President Jacob Zuma last weekend, was responding to questions as she briefed the media about her new position.

She had been a former diplomat to India and Malaysia. The Dalai Lama was refused a visa to attend a seminar on human rights and the 2010 World Cup football tournament.

He was invited by former Nobel peace prize laureates, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and F W de Klerk. The workshop was cancelled after the South African Government refused to amend its decision despite calls by Tutu and De Klerk. It was stated that South Africa had succumbed to pressures by the Chinese Government not to grant the visa.

She also talked about the deteriorating situation in Myanmar where the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest. "On the issue of Burma (Myanmar), South Africa's position has never changed, she said.

"We said the human rights issue in Myanmar should not go into the Security Council. We said we should not mix these things. I think it is important that we continue to communicate and clarify this fact," she added.

Answering a question about neighbouring Zimbabwe, she said that South Africa had continually insisted along with the Southern African Development Community that democracy must be given a chance there.

"Zimbabweans themselves sitting together had decided to get together and form a unity government. We are appealing to all South Africans and friends of Zimbabwe to give Zimbabwe a chance to rebuild their country, working together with them and not for them," she said.