People: Short, bald and funny

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The Independent Online
SHORT, slightly balding east German politicians with links to the Honecker regime were never widely known for their wit, dynamism or sexiness. That was before Gregor Gysi.

With a blend of intelligence, ironic humour and charm, Mr Gysi has revived the old Communist movement, now the Party of Democratic Socialism, as a powerful voice for many east Germans.

'I always take up the cases of people whom I feel have had unfair failures or are socially deprived,' said Mr Gysi, 46. To 'Ossis', he is one of them, sharing their culture and points of reference.

Among recent Gysi declarations on the campaign trail: 'If you want change, vote PDS - because then the other parties will have to make real changes to keep you from voting for us again.'

'This government has been annoying you for four years. Annoy them for a change. Vote PDS.'

The party is not expected to win more than 4 or 5 per cent of the nation-wide vote in Sunday's elections. In a mock appeal to west Germans worried about the former Communists becoming too powerful, Mr Gysi pledged: 'There is no danger of us winning an absolute majority. If we do, we'll challenge the result.'

TWO Social Democratic ministers in Sweden will be spending more time with their families, but will still keep their jobs. Margot Wallstrom, the Culture Minister, and Anders Sundstrom, the Labour Minister, are taking advantage of liberal Swedish legislation that allows them to work from home for family reasons.

Ms Wallstrom is having an office built in Karlstad that will provide a computer link to her staff of civil servants in Stockholm, 200 miles away. Mr Sundstrom, who has previously turned down political jobs for family reasons, will be based in Pitea, 540 miles from the capital.

'I KNOW he thinks only of revenge and he hates the Saudi royal family for allowing the Americans to defeat Iraq in the Gulf war,' said

the author of I Was Saddam's Son.

Latif Yahia is not really Saddam Hussein's offspring, but a former fidai, or double, for the Iraqi leader's son, Uday Hussein. He said Saddam also had at least two doubles; one died in 1984, but another, Fawaz Amhari, was still carrying out his role.

'We trained together,' Mr Yahia said. 'I have seen film on Austrian television of Saddam swimming but it wasn't really him, it was the fidai.' The real Saddam is still thought to be in deep water, though.

(Photograph omitted)

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