Updated: 12/06/2013 12:58 | By Agence France-Presse

Dalai Lama pays tribute to 'dear friend' Nelson Mandela

The Dalai Lama said Friday in a letter sent to the family of Nelson Mandela that he would miss a "dear friend" who he hailed as "a man of courage, principle and unquestionable integrity".

Dalai Lama pays tribute to 'dear friend' Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela salutes the South African military health service band that played a specially composed march on his 85th birthday, on July 18, 2003

Following the announcement of the death of Mandela aged 95, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said in a statement on his website that "the best tribute we can pay to him is to do whatever we can to contribute to honouring the oneness of humanity and working for peace and reconciliation as he did".

His statement came as Asian leaders lined up to pay tribute to the man Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described as "one of the great figures of the last century".

In an official statement, the prime minister said Mandela "will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader".

"He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid. When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country.

"While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives."

Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said of her fellow Nobel Peace laureate: "I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of a man who stood for human rights and for equality in this world.

"He made us all understand that nobody should be penalised for the colour of his skin, for the circumstances into which he is born. 

"He also made us understand that we can change the world -- we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions. For this reason I would like to pay him tribute as a great human being who raised the standard of humanity."

Mandela, who was elected South Africa's first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state.

His condition deteriorated and he died following complications from the lung infection, with his family by his side.

China's President Xi Jinping praised Mandela's "historic contribution" to South Africa and the world.

"Mr Mandela was a world renowned statesman," Xi said in a message of condolence to South African President Jacob Zuma, according to a report posted on the central government's website.

"With arduous and extraordinary efforts, he led the people of South Africa to success in the struggle against apartheid, making a historic contribution to the birth and development of a new South Africa."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed Mandela as a "true Gandhian" who would continue to inspire future generations after his death.

"A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India's loss as South Africa's. He was a true Gandhian," Singh's office tweeted.

"His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come. I join all those who are praying for his soul."

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