Dalai Lama to miss Mandela memorial in SAfrica

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NEW DELHI (AP) - The Dalai Lama will not attend memorial services for fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela in South Africa, where the Buddhist spiritual leader has twice been unable to obtain a visa, a spokesman said Monday.

Tenzin Takhla gave no specific reason for the Dalai Lama missing the memorial service in Johannesburg and funeral in Mandela's hometown, saying only that "logistically it's impossible at this time."

The Dalai Lama _ based in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala since he fled China in 1959 _ was welcomed to South Africa in 1996 and met with Mandela when he was South Africa's first black and democratically elected president.

But in 2009, the South African government blocked the Dalai Lama from attending a Nobel laureates' peace conference, saying it would detract attention from the 2010 soccer World Cup.

The Tibetan spiritual leader later made plans to travel to South Africa in October 2011 for the 80th birthday party of another Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But the South African High Commission office in New Delhi stalled on processing the visa until the Dalai Lama eventually withdrew his application.

A South African court acknowledged last year that pressure from China, a major trading partner with South Africa, played a part in the delays.

The Dalai Lama advocates increased autonomy for his homeland of Tibet, but China accuses him of being a separatist agitator.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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