Tiny and Al-Fayed fall out again

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The happy reconciliation of"Tiny" Rowland and Mohammed Al-Fayed, sealed three years ago with a public handshake in the food hall of Harrods, is on the rocks.

A frost has again settled over relations between the two businessmen and they are no longer happy lunching companions. "All that has stopped," said Mr Rowland last week.

The cause of the breach is the old one: disputes over who did what to whom during the 1980s in their vicious contest for ownership of Harrods department store. Mr Al-Fayed is still trying to have a highly critical Department of Trade and Industry report on him overturned, and Mr Rowland apparently dislikes the direction in which he is moving.

According to Mr Al-Fayed's spokesman, Michael Cole: "Mr Al-Fayed is getting closer and closer to exposing what happened behind the scenes in 1987, at the time the DTI inquiry was set up."

Mr Rowland said the rift re-opened when Mr Al-Fayed asked him to sign an affadavit about his activities in the 1980s. This prompted the former Lonrho chief to make a complaint to the Cabinet Secretary. In October 1994, when Mr Al- Fayed first went public with his allegations about cash-for-questions at Westminster, it was widely reported that the reconciliation had paved the way for the attack.

The two men appeared to have joined forces against the Conservative government. At the height of the drama, two junior ministers, Tim Smith and Neil Hamilton, resigned.

But in the past few weeks, as cash-for-questions and Mr Al-Fayed returned to the headlines, Tiny Rowland was less than supportive: "Fayed himself is now in a very dangerous position," he said. "He has some very close advisers who he has had to share secrets with. He befriends everybody but most of them are ditched sooner or later."

Mr Al-Fayed is concerned at what lay behind the DTI investigation of his family in 1987.Ministers had previously ruled out an inquiry, but just before a general election, the investigation Mr Rowland had demanded was authorised.

Mr Al-Fayed's family was accused of misrepresenting its origins in Egypt and of dishonesty in its claims to wealth. His outrage at this verdict is said to be at the root of his decision to expose politicians and others who benefited from his largesse during the Harrods war.