Fairfax’s robust Iraq correspodent,
Paul McGeough, is in the news again, this time playing a dicey game of
diplomacy to try to free Australian hostage Douglas Wood. The results
of his talks with various sheikhs are splashed over the front pages of
The Smage (here),
and McGeough has been all over the radio this morning. But Alexander
Downer is not impressed. The foreign minister went on radio this
morning warning that, in this case, too much publicity is bad
publicity.

“I’d rather this kind of material wasn’t covered
too much in public,” said Downer. And he answered questions about the
government’s efforts to free the hostage with a Downeresque flourish:
“I’m not going into the names of the people we’re talking to… Sheikh
This, or Minister That.”

McGeough’s efforts at international
diplomacy and delicate hostage negotiation are not out of character.
Readers will recall that McGeough made headlines last year, reporting
that Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had personally executed prisoners
– a sensational claim that remains unsubstantiated.

This time we hope the well-connected McGeough (a former Herald editor whose partner is Fin Review
power hackette Pam Williams) can bring home the bacon. But diplomacy is
a tricky trade, and McGeogh shouldn’t expect much help from Allawi.

Peter Fray

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