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Tutu breaks silence on Dalai Lama visa saga

In a strongly worded statement, Tutu says he is ashamed to call this 'lickspittle bunch my government'.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Picture: Sapa.

CAPE TOWN - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a close friend of the Dalai Lama, has broken his silence over the latest visa debacle.

In a strongly worded statement, Tutu says he is ashamed to call this, in his words, 'lickspittle bunch my government'.

He says the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was meant to celebrate former President Nelson Mandela but his comrades have spat in his face.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India and is at loggerheads with China over Tibet, had been hoping to join the Nobel peace conference in Cape Town this month but withdrew his visa application after being told it would be unsuccessful.

While the Department of International Relations and Cooperation maintained normal procedures were followed with the Dalai Lama's visa application, it also said the application was withdrawn.

China subsequently thanked South Africa for taking the 'correct position' on the alleged visa refusal.

Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi on Tuesday expressed concern over Tutu's silence on the matter.

She was quoted as saying South Africa has a history of fighting racial discrimination and that's why she won't accept the country's alleged refusal to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has repeatedly emphasised he cancelled his trips in the past following delays in processing his visa applications.

Ebadi, along with several other fellow peace prize winners, has boycotted the summit as a result.

Meanwhile, the office of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates says it's not aware of any plans to cancel the Cape Town event.

On Wednesday, the Cape Argus reported that the summit, which is scheduled to start on 13 October, has been cancelled after another three Nobel laureates withdrew.

But the City of Cape Town has denied these claims.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has also confirmed it has heard nothing about a cancellation.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille's office says she will address the rumours at a briefing today.