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In a move that Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls "shamelessly bowing to Chinese pressure," the government of South Africa has denied a visa to the Dalai Lama. The former leader of Tibet was due to attend a peace conference linked to the World Cup, along with Tutu, Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk and other Nobel leaureates. Tutu and de Klerk have pulled out of the event in protest.

"The South African government does not have a problem with the Dalai Lama," a spokesman for the president insists. "But at this time the whole world will be focused on the country as hosts of the 2010 World Cup. We want the focus to remain on South Africa. A visit now by the Dalai Lama would move the focus from South Africa onto issues in Tibet."

South African paper Business Day claims that anonymous government sources disagree. "The Chinese government would not have been happy had we let him come," they quote one as saying. "We would not do anything to upset the relationship we have with China."

South Africa is China's largest trade partner on the continent.

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