Andreotti rues the day he said 'yes' to a life in Italian politics

Giulio Andreotti, the former Italian prime minister who is on trial in Sicily for alleged Mafia links, wishes he had never become involved in politics. And Pope John Paul II may well wish he had not got involved with Mr Andreotti.

If he could have foreseen his future troubles, Mr Andreotti told a Portuguese Catholic radio station, he would have said ''no, thanks'' a half-century ago, when Alcide De Gasperi, Italy's post-war leader, asked him to join the Christian Democrats. Rather than become a politician, he would have pursued a career as a canon lawyer or a doctor, the Life Senator said.

The Pope, meanwhile, has been criticised for inviting Mr Andreotti to address a health-care conference at the Vatican, during which the two were photographed chatting and shaking hands.

On Tuesday, a university student who was reading a prayer at a papal Mass departed from his text and quoted the words of Aldo Moro, the murdered former prime minister, in describing Mr Andreotti. In a letter written from captivity before he was killed by Red Brigades guerrillas in 1978, Moro said: ''He was indifferent, bloodless, absent, closed in his shadowy scheme of glory.''

The unidentified student continued: ''One can be grey, Senator Andreotti, but honest; grey but good; grey but full of fervour - but this is what you lack, human fervour.'' The Pope did not respond, and continued with his Mass. John Major also showed no reaction.

After two weeks of factory tours and market-economy lessons from his Chinese and Vietnamese comrades, Fidel Castro toured the huge Cu Chi tunnel network where Viet Cong guerrillas hid during the Vietnam war. Wearing a soft cap and a guerrilla-style kerchief around his neck, the Cuban leader spent an hour hearing how the tunnels were dug in the 1960s, and became a launching point for attacks on Saigon. Mr Castro tried to squeeze into a few tunnels, but didn't get very far. In a guest book, he wrote that the tunnels were an example of man's endurance in the face of aggression.

Imelda Marcos wants a reconciliation with the former president Corazon Aquino. The former first lady of the Philippines says the feud between her family and that of Benigno Aquino, Mrs Aquino's assassinated husband, has lasted too long. In fact, she says, it has provoked the gods to strike the Philippines with numerous natural calamities.

"We are displeasing the gods because we are not giving eternal rest to the dead," Mrs Marcos said, referring to her late husband Ferdinand and to continued suspicion that he had ordered Aquino's killing.

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