People: Rushdie lays claim to his family seat

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THE writer Salman Rushdie, who is still in hiding - bar the occasional sortie - from Muslim extremists who have vowed to kill him, has petitioned to reclaim a small estate in the Himalayan foothills. Rushdie, who was born in India, asked the High Court in Himachal Pradesh state to order the government to vacate the cottage and an acre of ground in the small town of Solan.

Rushdie says his father gave him the house in 1969, and that the government had taken over the estate in the mistaken belief that his father had migrated to Pakistan when India was partitioned in 1947. But the writer, in asking for his house back, did not say whether he intended to move to Solan, a sleepy town in the forested hills 185 miles north of New Delhi.

AS the North Korean crisis escalated last week, President Bill Clinton tried to call Jiang Zemin in Paking to put pressure on Pyongyang. But Mr Zemin refused to take the call. The Chinese Foreign Minister explained in a cable that Peking did not wish to conduct diplomacy by telephone. So the White House resorted to the normal diplomatic channels.

NORWAY'S Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, is shrewdly cashing in on World Cup fever. She has been diligently doing her homework. Television viewers were apparently deeply impressed with her knowledge of her national team. 'That Flo,' she said of the key attacker Jostein Flo, 'He's got nice blond curls.' Mrs Brundtland, commenting on Norway's 1-0 win against Mexico on Sunday, said she had found the game 'very exciting'.

A HALE and hearty General Vo Nguyen Giap, 82, who masterminded Dien Bien Phu - the battle in 1954 that caused France's empire in Indochina to crumble - says he no longer wants to talk 'about war'. Vietnam's military hero has been drafted in to fight his country's new ideological battle for the free market and is urging French companies from the erstwhile imperialist heartland to 'hurry along' to invest in Vietnam.

'We realised that central planning did not conform to rational laws,' he says. 'We are clearing the way for a market economy to build socialism.' But the old guerrilla supremo is still wary of multi-party democracy. It is, he warns, a recipe for disorder and turmoil.