South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu urged his government on Sunday to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to attend Tutu's 80th birthday party, after it denied a visa request in 2009.
South Africa in 2009 barred the Tibetan spiritual leader from visiting, saying it did not want to jeopardise ties with China, a key economic partner whose relations with the Dalai Lama have been strained for decades.
"I have invited His Holiness the Dalai Lama to attend my 80th birthday celebrations in Cape Town," Tutu told South Africa's Sunday Independent newspaper.
"I am delighted that His Holiness has accepted the invitation. I am hopeful that our government will facilitate the necessary travel documentation," he said.
Citing "diplomatic sources," the paper said the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, requested a visa in June from South Africa's High Commission in New Delhi but the embassy claimed it has not received the request.
The Tibetan leader's staff will file another visa request Monday, according to the Sunday Independent.
"As soon as he applies, New Delhi will alert Pretoria and his visa application will be considered," interior ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said, adding "the visa will be considered on its merits, according to the normal procedures."
The Dalai Lama had planned to take part in a peace conference connected to the 2010 World Cup, but when his 2009 visa request was denied, the talk was called off after Tutu and fellow Nobel laureate F.W. de Klerk pulled out in protest.
Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that the Dalai Lama was welcome to visit South Africa and described the earlier decision as poor communication by the government.
But the government also admitted that the move was made in order not to "jeopardise" ties with China.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.
He says he wants better treatment for Tibetans and accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a "splittist" and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders.
The 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate recently stepped down as the head of Tibet's government in exile, but he is expected to retain significant influence on major policy decisions.