People: PLO envoy comes armed with charm

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The Independent Online
THE private visit to Israel and the occupied territories by Afif Safieh, the PLO's representative in London, has turned into a charm offensive. Israeli politicians, including the doveish Minister of Communications, Shulamit Aloni, attended receptions Mr Safieh gave in his mother's east Jerusalem home or visited as he held court. One special visitor to the family home was Moshe Hirsch, a rabbi of the Neturei Karta group, which rejects the foundation of the state of Israel.

'We are in a situation of unavoidable co-existence,' Mr Safieh, the highest-ranking PLO official to tour Israel and the territories openly, told his audiences.

On his first trip home in 25 years, Mr Safieh, 43, dropped into a pastry shop in Jerusalem's Old City and was given honey cakes by the happy proprietor. Less welcoming was an Israeli construction worker in the Pisgat Zeev development in east Jerusalem, who yelled 'Palestinians will never get any part of Jerusalem]' Mr Safieh moved away, curtly wishing him good day.

Palestinians' ultimate goal should be a two-state solution, Mr Safieh said, but for the moment the most important thing was to bring home the Palestinian diaspora. 'It is time for Palestinians to have family reunions in Arab cities like . . . Hebron, Jerusalem or Gaza rather than on the east coast of the United States,' he said.

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'GO HOME' is also the message that Hiep Thi Le is giving to Vietnamese boat people who are languishing in Hong Kong detention camps. Hiep, the star of Heaven and Earth, the latest film by Oliver Stone, is herself a refugee from Vietnam. She visited her cousin, one of 30,000 people in the crowded camps, and advised her to give up her dream of reaching the West.

'Repatriation is the only answer, because there is no hope of her coming to the United States,' said the actress, who was born in Da Nang. 'I don't want to think what will happen to people like my cousin after 1997 (when Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule) - especially as China is so over-populated.'

Thirteen years ago, at the age of nine, Hiep was part of the huge wave of Vietnamese boat people fleeing the first years of Communism in the reunited nation.

EXPANDING her horizons, Barbra Streisand has ended a 22-year break from public performances and plans to take her show on the road. Streisand said she stopped doing concerts because she was frightened that she would forget the words to songs. Friends say she was also concerned for her safety. Her memory intact, she did two shows in Las Vegas over the new year weekend for audiences that passed through metal detectors. After opening with 'Everything's As If We Never Said Goodbye', Streisand delivered powerful renditions of her classics, including 'People' and 'The Way We Were'.

GETTING back to the way she was, Tammy Wynette has been taken off a life-support system. 'I don't remember a lot but I feel wonderful to be alive and want to thank everyone for their prayers,' she said. The country singer collapsed from an intestinal infection last week and had been critically ill. Her publicist said Wynette was smiling and in good spirits.

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