People: Rabin sees the error of his 'manners' gibe

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The Independent Online
AROUND the world, feet are being pulled out of mouths. Yitzhak Rabin says Benazir Bhutto can visit the Gaza Strip without seeing any Israelis if she wants. Furthermore, 'she can learn manners from whomever she wants,' the Israeli Prime Minister said.

An earlier comment by Mr Rabin that his Pakistani counterpart lacked manners was misunderstood, he insisted: 'The problem is the translation of what was said. Now it has ended well.'

Well, not exactly.

Ms Bhutto has cancelled her plans to be the first foreign head of government to visit Gaza since it achieved self-rule in May, despite a deal that would allow her to fly in from Egypt.

The Israel-Pakistan war of words broke out when Ms Bhutto announced she would visit Gaza on Sunday without asking permission from Israel, which controls all border crossings into Palestinian self-rule areas and is not recognised by Pakistan.

Mr Rabin said 'the lady from Pakistan' should 'learn some manners'. Pakistan threw the bad-manners accusation back at Mr Rabin, saying his 'unpleasant remarks have not contributed to creating the right atmosphere' for a Bhutto visit. And, a Foreign Ministry spokesman added: 'It does not behove someone who is in illegal occupation of another people's land to display such arrogance.'

MACAU'S Governor-General, Vasco Rocha Vieira, expressed 'profound regret' to China over a press-kit biography of Li Peng that described the Prime Minister as arrogant and incompetent.

'We do not agree with what is written and we deplore what has happened,' Mr Rocha Vieira said in Peking, where he met Foreign Ministry officials.

The Portuguese embassy in Peking said it was investigating how the biographical sketch, two pages written in poor English, found its way into the press kits for the Governor's visit. 'We do not know who wrote it,' Mr Rocha Vieira said, noting the biography had been written on paper that did not bear an official stamp.

'Li Peng was known for his arrogance and arbitrariness long before,' said the sketch. It added that Mr Li was 'bitterly criticised . . . by the Chinese people and Chinese Communists abroad' for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, it said, considered replacing him after 'taking into account Li's incompetence and bad reputation'.

Despite the embarrassment, Mr Li accorded the Governor a warm welcome yesterday and praised him for his co-operation on plans to return the Portuguese colony to Chinese rule in 1999.

SINGAPORE has received an apology from the International Herald Tribune, which has acknowledged that a 2 August opinion-page article made unfounded allegations of nepotism in high places.

The article noted that 'dynastic politics' was 'evident' in Singapore, 'despite official commitments to bureaucratic meritocracy'. The Trib conceded on Wednesday that the article implied Lee Hsien Loong was appointed to several government posts, including his present job of deputy prime minister, because he is the son of Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister. 'We admit these allegations are completely without foundation,' it said. 'We apologise for them without reservation.'

Unsatisfied, the Lees and the prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, are seeking damages and costs. As yet, they have not suggested the Trib's editor be caned.

(Photograph omitted)