Le Parisien added to a wealth of bizarre twists in the story of Ramirez Ilich Sanchez, the Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos, with a report on Saturday that Carlos wanted to extract information from Barbie about the links Western governments had with war criminals. The paper said that the Stasi, East Germany's secret service, vetoed the plan.
If Carlos had succeeded, the operation could have eclipsed his most spectacular act, the abduction of oil ministers from an Opec conference in Vienna in December 1975.
Barbie was extradited to France from Bolivia in 1983. He was given a life sentence in 1987 for crimes against humanity for his activities as a senior police officer in Lyons during the Second World War.
Barbie's lawyer was Jacques Verges, the defender of unpopular causes who now represents Carlos. Since Carlos's arrest was announced two weeks ago, Mr Verges has been as much in the news as his client since purported Stasi documents surfaced saying that the lawyer was a member of Carlos's group.
Mr Verges has denied this and counter-charged that President Francois Mitterrand once approved a plan to have him assassinated. Le Parisien said Carlos wanted Mr Verges to help with the kidnap shortly after Barbie arrived in France.
The newspaper quoted a letter from Johanes Weinrich, a German said to have been Carlos's lieutenant, saying Barbie's 'disclosures, cleverly publicised, will compromise Western regimes and denounce their relationship with war criminals'.
At the Barbie trial, details emerged of how the Nazi became an informant in Germany for US intelligence services in the American zone. Using this relationship to protect him, he escaped to Latin America to avoid arrest.
The latest Carlos-Verges allegations provided some respite for France's former Socialist leaders, who were accused at the end of last week of being soft on terrorism.
A principal accuser was Valery Giscard d'Estaing, France's centre-right president from 1974 to 1981. He said his orders to the secret services to pursue Carlos were dropped after Mr Mitterrand's election in 1981.
Mr Giscard d'Estaing's own tenure as president was notable for several concessions to terrorists. The most famous was the decision to release Abu Daoud, one of the Palestinians accused by Israel of organising the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes. The Palestinian was hurriedly freed, although international warrants had been issued for his arrest after police detained him during a visit to Paris in 1977.
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