Flat Earth

Read my lips ...

WE WERE talking recently about famous "sayings" that were in fact never said, from "Play it again, Sam" to "You've never had it so good". So let's get this straight: Robin Cook did not say he wanted an ethical foreign policy.

Who says he never said it? The Foreign Secretary himself, that's who. In the New Statesman he complains: "I've given up trying to get this across. I read in the New Statesman recently that I must regret the day I used the phrase 'ethical foreign policy'. Well, how can I regret it when I never used it? What we have sought to do in a practical way is to put into effect our values. People see that phrase and see it as grandstanding."

When you look at the record, it is quite understandable that Cook is aggrieved. After all, he said perfectly clearly in May last year: "Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist for ourselves." How these words can be twisted to allege that Britain is supposed to have an "ethical foreign policy" is beyond me, and I share his hope that such suggestions will now stop.

Dancing for justice

IMMUNITY seems to be in the news at the moment - Pinochet and all that - but so far we have had no belly dancers gyrating outside the House of Lords. In Israel, however, Shulamit Shalom (pixillated out of the accompanying photograph for domestic legal reasons), performed her act outside the foreign ministry in protest at the granting of diplomatic immunity to the Egyptian ambassador, Mohammad Bassiouny.

She said he tried to rape her last year, after offering her a birthday present. He denied it, and a court dismissed her pounds 170,000 damages claim on the grounds of diplomatic immunity. While Shulamit strutted her stuff outside the foreign ministry in a gold crown, a black sequinned dress and heavy blue eye makeup, more conventionally-clad women held signs reading: "There is no diplomatic immunity for rape." She is demanding that Israel send him home.

Ask the missus

WHEN James Rubin, the spokesman at the US State Department, married star CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour in August, there was instant twitching of media eyebrows. How could the newlyweds avoid obvious conflicts of interest? How long before a pro-American sheen showed in Amanpour's reporting? Wouldn't pillow talk lead to James divulging secrets to his wife? Never have their colliding careers been more vividly on display than now. Rubin is chief mouthpiece for America's handling of the Iraq crisis, while Amanpour has been dispatched from her London base to you- know-where: Baghdad.

Anyone tuned to CNN on Friday would have witnessed this. In Baghdad the Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, was at the microphones, presenting one last time the position of Iraq in the confrontation - and answering questions from Amanpour. Moments later, Rubin was on the screen denouncing what Aziz had just said. If Aziz had something to relay to the Clinton administration, why did he bother with a news conference, one wonders? He would have done better passing a message through the CNN correspondent.