The South Africa 2010 World Cup Organizing Committee, which was to host a peace conference this week in Johannesburg to discuss football's role in fighting racism and xenophobia, has suspended the high-profile event in the wake of a row over the South African government closing its doors to the Dalai Lama.

Irvin Khosa, chairman of the South African football league, announced the postponement at a news conference Tuesday, without citing any concrete reason for it.

Pretoria had denied the Nobel Peace laureate a visa to attend the conference, scheduled for Friday, to avoid a confrontation with Beijing.

The Chinese authorities consider the Dalai Lama as a secessionist leader, and they reactively protest any action accommodating the spiritual leader of the Tibetans who fled his country in the wake of Chinese invasion.

Mandla Mandela, grandson of the first post-apartheid South African President Nelson Mandela and the chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council, also attended the press briefing.

The South African government's denial of the visa to the Dalai Lama was a sad day for the country's democracy and Africa, the junior Mandela said.

Nobel laureates, Hollywood celebrities, and top football officials had been invited to discuss issues, ranging from anti-racism to sport as a way to bring peoples and nations together.

South African presidential spokesman, Thabo Masebe, said Monday the organizers had not consulted the government before inviting the Dalai Lama, and added that it did not want anything to distract the attention of the world from the 2010 World Cup.

The move evoked protests from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also a Nobel peace laureate, and members of the Nobel Committee, who announced that they were boycotting the Friday conference.

Former South African President F.W. De Klerk also had withdrawn from the conference.

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