29 AUGUST 2007

Even at 89, Nelson Mandela continues to demonstrate the kind of charismatic appeal that causes a ripple of excitement wherever he goes. In Britain, well-known figures from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to model Naomi Campbell lined up to pay their respects to the former South African President, who was in the country on one of his increasingly rare trips abroad to unveil a statue of himself in Parliament Square.

The first stop for the anti-apartheid hero was No 10 Downing Street, where the normally reserved Mr Brown greeted him enthusiastically, hailing him as "the greatest and most courageous leader of our generation".

Accompanied by his wife Graca Machel and wearing one of his hallmark colourful shirts, the elder statesman was in a jocular mood, quipping: "We are happy to be here because this was one of our rulers, but we overthrew them."

Later that evening Naomi led a gathering of celebrities at a gala dinner hosted in Mr Mandela's honour by key figures from Britain's black community at the Dorchester Hotel. The supermodel, who refers to the Nobel Peace Prize winner as her "honorary grandfather", was joined by presenter June Sarpong and Bond actor Colin Salmon at the gathering, which the African leader's grandson attended on his behalf.

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Naomi inspects a miniature version of the statue being erected in honour of the leader she calls "her honorary grandfather"Photo: © Getty ImagesClick on photos for gallery
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Gordon and Sarah Brown were thrilled to be hosting Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel Photo: © PA