London Mayor fights to erect statue of former South African President

London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Wednesday stepped up his fight to have a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela placed in a prominent position in London's Trafalgar Square.

Addressing the annual conference of the governing Labour Party in Brighton, southern England, Livingstone criticized Conservative-controlled Westminster City Council for rejecting plans to erect the 9-foot (2.7-meter) bronze statue on the square's north terrace, outside the main entrance to the National Gallery, the AP informs.

Livingstone has argued that the 400,000-pound (US$720,000; Ђ600,000) statue would be an ideal counterpoint to that of Britain's famous admiral, Lord Nelson, whose statue stands in the square.

"Suppose I had proposed in a moment of euphoric bipartisanship to erect a statue of (former Conservative Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher in Trafalgar Square, would I have had problems with Westminster City Council?" Livingstone asked Labour delegates.

"No. But what do they tell us? They don't like the Nelson Mandela statue. It's in the wrong place _ I mean you never expect to see a statue in Trafalgar Square," he said, an ironic reference to the statues that dot the square.

"Nelson Mandela would signify the peaceful transition to a multiracial and multicultural world and I would be proud to have that in London," he added to applause.

There was no immediate comment from Westminster City Council, which decided last year that the position Livingstone wants is too prominent. It wants the statue positioned on the piazza outside South Africa House, offices of the South African High Commission, or embassy.

It is currently holding an inquiry into the siting of the statue; Livingstone is due to address the inquiry on Thursday.


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