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Wednesday, February 17, 1999 Published at 16:23 GMT


Ali visit knocks out Londoners

Ali greeted the crowds from an open-topped Bentley

Thousands of people brought the streets of south London to a standstill when the boxing legend, Muhammad Ali arrived to promote a campaign to cancel Third World debt for the millennium.

Nikki Albon: "Muhammad Ali's presence is enough"
The former world heavyweight champion, aged 57, came to the Jubilee 2000 Coalition campaign building and met the project coordinator Kofi Mawuli Klu before touring the streets of Brixton in an open-topped 1930s Bentley.

Mounted police were called in to help control the crowds chanting Ali's name.

When his motorcade returned to the centre Ali was hemmed in by fans and journalists and performed a magic trick by making a red handkerchief disappear.

He left about an hour later in a limousine.

Mr Klu said he was delighted with the response to Ali's visit. "It was fantastic. The atmosphere in the centre was electric. This is precisely what we needed to energise us," he said.

Wreath at Westminster

Earlier in the day, Ali laid a wreath at a monument in Victoria Tower Gardens, near Westminster, to show his support for the campaign.

He was greeted by six children who were said to represent the lives of the seven million children which could be saved by 2000 if Third World debt were cancelled.

Ali's lawyer and agent, Ron DiNicola, said: "It's a terrific honour for him to be in England, a country that he loves and a country he has had a warm, long-standing relationship with.

"It's an honour for him to be here in support of such a worthy cause as Jubilee 2000. He has had a long-standing commitment to the peoples of Africa and the other poor countries of the world."

'Man of dignity'

Jubilee 2000 director, Ann Pettifor, said: "Muhammad Ali is an icon for all people who have struggled against the inhumanity of racism and war.

"He carries his scars and his achievements with tremendous dignity. That dignity is shared by the millions in Africa, Latin America and Asia who daily struggle against the economic, social and human degradation caused by debt."

On Tuesday night, the former boxing champion appeared at the Brit Awards with U2 singer Bono to promote Jubilee 2000. But Ali, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, did not speak at any of his London appearances.

The Jubilee 2000 campaign brings together a coalition of 90 organisations. Its supporters include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and the Pope.

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