FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Bad Tripoli

In public relations circles they speak of the "killer brief" - defending some company whose product poisons babies, say. But the term takes on added meaning when the client is Muammar Gaddafi's Libya.

Medals for bravery, then, to GJW International, a British lobbying company which has accepted the task of improving the country's image and helping to end its international isolation. The chairman, Wilf Weeks, a former political adviser to Ted Heath, says: "We have nothing to hide. We are not stupid. We thought carefully before we took the contract. We know that the Libyans are not angels."

They certainly aren't. Even if you don't believe that Gaddafi masterminded the Lockerbie bombing, someone in the Libyan mission shot dead the policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, in broad daylight in London in 1984, since when we have had no diplomatic relations with Tripoli. If GJW can overcome these unfortunate blots on Libya's good name, they will be worth every penny of their (undisclosed) fee. The company is said to be considering inviting government ministers to visit the country to promote trade, but anyone tempted to take a freebie to Tripoli should consider the fate of Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan, who barely kept his job after a fraternal trip to Libya.

His reward was to be lectured by Col Gaddafi in front of the TV cameras about Turkey's failure to give indpendence to the Kurdish population - equivalent, in local terms, to demanding that Britain should withdraw from Northern Ireland.

Just picture it

Movie news: Scenes for the sequel to Jurassic Park are shortly to be filmed in the fjords of New Zealand's South Island. The dinosaurs will be spliced in back in Hollywood, but large numbers of movie people, possibly including the likes of Steven Spielberg, Jeff Goldblum and Dickie Attenborough will descend on the tiny town of Te Anau. The locals are not easily impressed, though. "We'll take it in our stride," said one. "We had Cliff Richard here for a week in 1990."

In Rome, meanwhile, Breaking The Waves, Lars Von Trier's acclaimed new film, disappeared straight after the opening night last week. A critical pasting? No, more of a classic Italian cock-up.

The projector at one of the two cinemas where the film was on snapped the final reel at a late-night showing. Rather than leave the audience hanging, the proprietor sent someone round to borrow the other cinema's copy, just as it was closing up for the night. But the projector snapped the second film as well, leaving Rome entirely bereft of Von Trier's masterpiece. It only returned this weekend.

Priority adroit

Bosnian Serb policemen used to be too busy murdering people and ethnically cleansing Muslims to bother about duties like traffic control. But our man Robert Fisk discovered that things have changed under the watchful eye of the International Police Task Force, set up under the Dayton accords.

He first fell foul of the gendarmerie in Banja Luka, where all but 2,000 of the Muslim population were driven out and their magnificent 17th century mosque dynamited to the ground, not without police participation. But now one of them was pulling him over for driving past the town hall in a bus lane. Two days later, in Zvornik - the scene of one of the most brutal acts of genocide of the war - he was again flagged down, this time for allegedly overtaking on a double white line.

In Prijedor, most of whose Muslim men were rounded up by militiamen and sent to concentration camps in 1992, a UN official had his driving licence temporarily impounded by policemen who said he had broken the speed limit on the main road into town. Not that any pedestrians were at risk: most of the people on that particular stretch were killed or thrown out of their homes four years ago.

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