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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 01:14 GMT
Ann Leslie, a witness to history
Ann Leslie
Leslie witnessed huge global events
A remarkable career as foreign correspondent for the Daily Mail has made Ann Leslie a dame.

Few reporters have filed stories from more than 70 countries, but Leslie is considered a unique force in journalism.

The 65-year-old has witnessed and reported on many of the most significant events of the late 20th Century, sometimes at great risk to her own safety.

She has donned disguise to meet dissidents in Tehran, conducted clandestine interviews in the forbidden territory of North Korea, been shot at in Bosnia and pursued by Mugabe's secret service in Zimbabwe.

I was completely astonished and thought there must have been some mistake
Leslie on hearing of her honour

Her CV reads like a potted recent history of the planet and includes the fall of the Berlin Wall, the famine in Ethiopia and Nelson Mandela's walk to freedom.

Leslie grew up in India and Pakistan. When she was around 10 years old she was sent to a boarding school in England and from there went to Oxford and then the Daily Express.

She was given her own column at the age of 22, but she gave it up in preference for showbiz features, which brought her into the company of Hollywood stars.

But she later resigned, saying she wanted to do proper reporting, and the Daily Mail supported her ambition to write foreign news stories.

civil wars in Zimbabwe, El Salvador and the former Yugoslavia
Falklands War
every US presidential election since 1976
China since the Cultural Revolution
first Gulf War in Iraq
five Superpower summits

Forty years and many scrapes with authority later, her press awards total double figures and her journalistic appetite has been undimmed by bouts of illness. She still writes for the Daily Mail and is a regular broadcaster.

Leslie, who is married with one daughter, told the BBC News website she was "completely astonished" to learn she was to be a dame and added: "I've never contributed a penny to any political party, so no-one can say I bought it."

She says there are two stories she witnessed which stand out - watching a "tsunami of people" leaving East Berlin when the wall came down, and Nelson Mandela's release.

Another episode stands out for a different reason. While at the Express, Leslie punched Muhammad Ali because he was not paying attention during an interview.

"He behaved beautifully after that," she recalls.

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