Music-lover tells the world to live in harmony

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The Independent Online
Are a love of music and the job of running the world's premier military alliance mutually incompatible, like the concept of ''military music''? Maybe not, but Willy Claes, Nato's Secretary- General, says ''sometimes I feel like a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde''. Mr Claes is in Athens on a private visit, during which he will conduct the Romanian Radio Orchestra, one of many orchestras he has conducted in recent years. Tonight, in the ancient open-air Herod Atticus Theatre at the foot of the Acropolis, he will conduct works by Brahms, Cesar Frank (a fellow Belgian) and others.

Music was his first love, Mr Claes said, but his musician father convinced him early on that the profession did not pay well. Hence, he turned to politics. His presence in Athens, he said, was ''simply to convey a message of peace and human understanding and that Nato's objective is not to win wars or wage wars but to bring harmony to the European continent''.

Mr Claes acknowledges he has had no formal training in conducting but says his family background and advice from Belgian conductors have helped. ''I don't impose my will on the musicians. We all work together like a family.''

The wives and widows of South African politicians on both sides of the apartheid struggle are meeting for lunch in Pretoria today with President Nelson Mandela. The reconciliation repast, Mr Mandela's spokesman said, is designed ''to bring together personalities who belonged to opposite sides of the apartheid divide, but who are today united in common pursuit of the best for South Africa and its people''.

Invited to rub shoulders are the wives of the former hardline president PW Botha and of Steve Biko, a black activist who died in police detention; and the widows of the former prime minister BJ Vorster and of Oliver Tambo, Mr Mandela's fellow ANC leader.

Mr Mandela scheduled visits to women too ill to attend the lunch, including the widow of the assassinated prime minister HF Verwoerd. She lives in Orania - a right-wing whites-only town.

Richard Gere's visit to Russia has been nothing if not eventful. He was arrested during a fishing trip and accused by the press of not doing his full duty as a juror at the International Film Festival in Moscow. The actor was criticised for leaving town twice, and he reportedly walked out of a least one film, by a Yugoslav director. "Just because it's from a country at war doesn't make it a good film,'' Gere said.

Last weekend, Gere went fishing with the director Nikita Mikhalkov. ''I was arrested for illegally taking caviar from the river,'' he said, ''but I'm not allowed to talk about that.''