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Bruce beats Pope to peace

Mostar, Sept. 12: After months of debate in the divided city of Mostar, Muslim and Croat residents have settled upon the person whose statue will adorn a new peace memorial: the martial arts legend, Bruce Lee.

Lee was chosen over rival nominees, including the Pope and Mahatma Gandhi, after a poll of residents revealed that his was the only name respected by both sides as a 'symbol of solidarity'. Mostar was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting in the Bosnian civil war and has had to be extensively rebuilt.

The estimated '4,000 cost of the life-size bronze statue has already been covered by private donors.

Not surprisingly, however, the decision to honour an American-born kung fu film star, which was confirmed at a meeting at Mostar city hall on Thursday, remains controversial.

Alija Bijavica from Subnor, an organisation representing partisan fighters from the 1939-45 war and their relatives, said: 'Many of our Second World War monuments have been destroyed over the years. We believe it would be better to restore some of them than to erect a monument to Bruce Lee. He, after all, did not fight for this country.'

They would rather see partisan heroes who fought for the former Yugoslav President Josip Tito remembered, but their wish was rejected in part because some people in the region fought with the Allies and others for the Germans.

Lee, also known as The Little Dragon, was born Lee Jun-Fan in San Francisco in November 1940 but his family returned to Kowloon, Hong Kong when he was a baby.

Veselin Gatalo, of the Mostar Urban Movement, a non-governmental organisation, said: 'We finally chose Bruce Lee as both Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats liked him.

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