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Martin Luther King Jr. estate, Harry Belafonte settle legal fight

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. singer and activist Harry Belafonte said on Friday they settled their dispute over possession of documents of the late civil rights leader that gives ownership to the entertainer.

Belafonte had sued the King estate over the documents that he said were given to him by King and his wife during their long friendship.

The documents are an outline of King's "Casualties of the War in Vietnam" speech that Belafonte said he had had in his possession since 1967, the undelivered "Memphis Speech" found in King's pocket after his 1968 assassination and a condolence letter sent by President Lyndon Johnson to King's widow.

Belafonte and the King estate said in a joint statement that they had reached a confidential compromise that "resulted in Mr. Belafonte retaining possession of the documents."

They said they would have no further comment on the case.

Belafonte, 87, known as the "King of Calypso" for his Caribbean-infused songs, was a close friend and supporter of King, who was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

In his lawsuit, filed in October in U.S. District Court in New York, Belafonte asked to be declared the owner of the three documents and that King's estate and youngest daughter, Bernice King, be barred permanently from trying to claim ownership.

King's estate and Bernice King disputed Belafonte's ownership of the documents when the singer took the items to Sotheby's auction house in New York to be appraised and put up for sale in 2008, the lawsuit said.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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