Craxi tops Mafia in hate stakes

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The Independent Online
The most hated person in Italy? Not the Mafia top cat Salvatore Riina, who is serving nine life terms in prison for a series of killings. The best he could manage was third place. And not the ''Monster of Florence'', Pietro Pacciani, jailed for 14 murders. He was fourth.

Topping the list in a survey for RAI radio was Bettino Craxi, the former prime minister. Craxi, convicted in numerous corruption cases, was considered far and away the most evil person. That may be appropriate, as Craxi himself is far and away; he is living in Tunisia, a fugitive from Italian justice.

Yasser Arafat had a question about a clause in an Israeli-Palestinian economic agreement being signed on Tuesday. The PLO leader scrawled a question mark beside the bit that allows Israel to seal off areas governed by the Palestinian Authority.

But the Israeli foreign minister, Ehud Barak, dealt easily with it. When it was his turn to sign, he simply crossed out the question mark. He later told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: ''We must protect our citizens, and we insisted that our hands would be free. Arafat has a problem with that? So what. I erased the sign he wrote on the agreement.''

As Francois Mitterrand was buried in the village of Jarnac yesterday, a former mayor of Gouloux was remembering him through a collection of postcards sent by Mitterrand. Camille Marchand has more than 120 cards dating from early 1964 until last May, a week before Mitterrand left office.

Posted from around the world, the cards arrived virtually every time Mitterrand left France. The final one came from Berlin. ''With best wishes from this last trip,'' he wrote. Mitterrand's real last journey abroad, however, was to Egypt. He spent Christmas in Aswan with his mistress, Anne Pingeot, and their daughter, Mazarine, before returning to France and New Year's Eve with his wife Danielle and their two sons.

William Safire, the New York Times columnist who called Hillary Clinton a ''congenital liar'' over her role in the complex Whitewater property deal, is grateful to President Bill Clinton for ensuring his ''historic notoriety'' by threatening to punch him in the nose.

Responding to the attack on Mrs Clinton on Monday, the White House press secretary, Mike McCurry, said the President would have liked to deliver ''a more forceful response to the bridge of Mr Safire's nose''.

That comment, Mr Safire said, ''rescued from obscurity an essay that had disappeared into the Blizzard of '96''. He would, he added, ''be amenable to snowballs at 40 paces''.

Maryann Bird