Owen appointed EC peace negotiator

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The Independent Online
DAVID, now Lord, Owen, will be mindful that as the European Community's chief peace negotiator - his appointment was announced last night - he will speak for and be answerable to EC member states as a whole, his office emphasised yesterday, writes Patricia Wynne Davies.

The former Labour Foreign Secretary and SDP leader cannot expunge from the record his forthright views on intervention in the former Yugoslavia. Nor necessarily, does he have to. France, for one, has not dissimilar opinions.

Lord Owen's combative, undiplomatic personality has been seen as more of a handicap; it was this that his office seemed keen to play down.

He has been described as unco-operative, unable to negotiate, even bruising, and as having a gift for making enemies. But despite past political failures, few deny his resourceful turn of mind. True to form, since retiring as an MP he has been quietly preparing the ground for a reappearance on the international stage, albeit not the one now in prospect.

The peace role is a matter for the entire EC and Lord Owen's activist views, while at odds with the British government's, are close to those of the French, who in turn have been constantly supportive to the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In spite of the apparent absence of skills of high diplomacy, a combination including Lord Owen might prove fruitful.