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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 11:29 GMT
Ali champions Afghan regeneration
Schoolgirls pose with Muhammad Ali at the Kartee See school
Most of the girls recognised the visitor as 'the Champ'
Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali was showered with petals by singing schoolgirls when he visited a school in Afghanistan in his role as a UN messenger of peace.

Though frail from the effects of Parkinson's disease, Ali entertained the enthralled girls by signing autographs and handing out volleyballs and skipping ropes.

Although quiet, his trademark sense of humour was still clearly intact.

''I'm going to make all the kids in America jealous with all these pretty girls," Ali joked while posing for photographs in the Kabul classroom.

Education drive

He also pretended to snore as the assembled photographers took their time in taking his picture.

Ali at a women's bakery in Kabul
Ali helps support the UN World Food Programme

BBC correspondent in Kabul, Kylie Morris, said Ali, a devout Muslim, was treated to a hero's welcome as he arrived in a seven-car convoy at the Kartee See high school.

Few had known who their famous visitor was to be, but on his arrival most recognised him as ''the Champ'', called out Mohammad Ali Clay and thanked him for coming, our correspondent says.

Ali, 60, was visiting the school as part of a three-day trip to Afghanistan to highlight efforts to reconstruct the country after 23 years of conflict.

Girls were banned from going to school under the former Taleban government, which was overthrown in a US-led war last year.

According to Unicef, education alone needs an extra $24.7 million to meet the needs of pupils.


I'm going to make all the kids in America jealous with all these pretty girls

Muhammad Ali

Ali's spokesman, Ali Hassas, said: ''Muhammad Ali was chosen by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as a messenger of peace so he felt an obligation to come and help the children here, especially the young women, who now have an opportunity to seek education and better their lives.''

Ali, who met President Hamid Karzai on Sunday, also paid a visit to a women's bakery sponsored by the UN World Food Programme and is attending a boxing club before leaving on Tuesday.


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17 Nov 02 | South Asia
13 Nov 02 | South Asia
12 Nov 02 | South Asia
14 Jan 02 | Ali at 60
21 Dec 01 | Entertainment
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