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Muhammad Ali Steps into Ring

The 700-odd Shiite Moslem prisoners in the Atlit detention camp have a real champion. He is Muhammad Ali, who held the world heavyweight boxing title from 1964-67 and 1974-78.

Ali arrived in Israel today “to arrange for the freeing of the Muslim brothers imprisoned by Israel.” He said he would be discussing the release of “all 700 brothers” with the “very highest level in the country.”

But Israeli officials have politely declined to enter the ring. Israel does not intend to negotiate through boxing champion Muhammad Ali but will welcome him warmly as a private guest, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said today.

He said certain preparations have been made to make Ali’s stay in the country as pleasant as possible but did not elaborate. The former champ is expected to be received by Deputy Foreign Minister Ronnie Milo, a Likud MK, but no other official meetings have been scheduled for him.

Asked at the airport if he would also try to obtain the release of the American hostages held by Shiites in Beirut, Ali replied, “I didn’t come here for that.”

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