People: Druze says sorry to the Swedes

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The Independent Online
THE Lebanese Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, has apologised to Sweden for sheltering a convicted spy for four years. Mr Jumblatt said he did so in 1990 'at the request of my former friends in the Soviet Communist Party'.

'His name was Ronald Abi but it turned out later he was a Swedish spy' called Stig Bergling, Mr Jumblatt said of the man he was told was a British agricultural expert. 'I am sorry if I did any harm to the Swedish. But politics is politics.'

Mr Jumblatt said the Swedish government sent a special envoy to Lebanon last week to ask him about the man. Berling, a senior Swedish security police official, was convicted of spying for Moscow and jailed for life in 1979. With Soviet assistance, he escaped from prison in 1987 and spied in Beirut from 1988 onwards. He returned to Sweden in August, saying he was homesick.

'I knew that he was a so-called British agricultural engineer,' said Mr Jumblatt, a former warlord who is now a Lebanese government minister. 'With time I knew that he had, well, some other backgrounds. But my friendship with the Soviets was very strong and I still consider that their help was strategic to me.'

Berling first stayed in Mr Jumblatt's home in Moukhtara, in the Chuf mountains, but was later provided with a house of his own. Many members of Mr Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party - a militia during the Lebanese civil war - received military training in the former Soviet Union. 'I had excellent relations with the Soviets,' Mr Jumblatt said. 'They helped me a lot, the party, the Druze, the Arab cause.'

THE German opposition leader, Rudolf Scharping, has chosen the traditional English tune Land of Hope and Glory for a television advertisment in his campaign challenging Chancellor Helmut Kohl in the 16 October elections.

In the commercial, Elgar's melody (without the lyrics) accompanies the Social Democratic Party leader as he strides along the portico of a Berlin museum with two members of his shadow cabinet, Oskar Lafontaine and Gerhard Schroder. The tune is generally familiar to Germans but most are unaware that it is a patriotic song.

Mr Kohl, who at 64 is 18 years older that Mr Scharping, has opted for equally surprising music. In one of his television adverts, a singer belts out Tina Turner's 'You're Simply the Best'.

AS IF he were not in enough trouble, Carlos the Jackal is being sued, along with 99 other detainees in France, for creating too much work for a prison workers' union. The 'limited and symbolic' action against Ilich Ramirez Sanchez and the others is meant to call attention to what the Union Syndicale Penitentiaire sees as the need for an extra 2,500 staff. The prison workers say the government is turning a blind eye to their problems, so they are turning on the inmates who, after all, are to blame for their overwork.