10 OCTOBER 1970, Page 15


The Balkans and the President



An unknown Yugoslav by the 'name of Raskovic eaused one of Richard Nixon's oldest friends and closest advisers a short but dramatic delay following the state visit. Herbert Klein, the White House commu- nications director, myself and several score others were asked to leave the IAT air- line Caravelle rather hurriedly last Friday in Zagreb because a tally showed one extra bag in the hold of the London-bound flight. But no Mr Raskovic on board.

Personally I found it the Most exciting moment in the Nixon visit to Yugoslavia

under the black crepe of Nasser's death. President Tito should have gone to Cairo and President Nixon ought to have made the gesture to free his host.

However Mr Klein, the gentle-voiced, baggy-eyed former publisher of the right- wing San Diego Union in what is Barry Goldwater country, while chatting over a chilled Tuborg at the airport, insisted much had been accomplished. He did not explain that remark and I doubt he could have had all week to let it float around his brain. But a twitchy American Embassy aide sent to shepherd Klein safely through the non- existent mysteries of a modern Balkan air- port piped up: 'If the Russians ever invaded this country the partisan spirit would return . . . they would take to the hills . . . they would fight to the last man. Anyway it's going capitalist very quickly although no one talks about it. Why, there's even a privately owned airline.'

The bomb scare delay gave Mr Klein just enough time to pick up a bottle of Stolichnayo Vodka costing 12s 6d.

Our scare was quite an easy one. But flying into and out of Yugoslavia I was impressed with different anti-hijack tech- niques. At Heathrow I was frisked by an apologetic, embarrassed-looking officer. It was reassuringly old-fashioned. At Belgrade when Nixon arrived a man passed a device the size of a walkie-talkie with a loop at- tached to it over my body. My metal biro whined and then the noise rose to a high pitch when it passed over my metal money clip. Upon leaving Belgrade you pass through a box that detects metal. As I went through there was a small but sharp crackle. I was clean. But I am sure my typewriter could have been a far more lethal device. I didn't feel at all assured the typewriter was mightier than the bomb.

I regret to report the presence of the midi in Yugoslavia. All that cloth which could be used elsewhere.

President Nixon missed one bit of trivia during his brief visit. I learned that the chauffeur who took the wrong turning in 1914 while driving the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo which led to his assassination and World War t continued to be hired in the same type of work until his death two years ago.

And I am convinced he was unaware that Zagreb's top television show is Peyton Place. Enough to make him homesick.

• There's a curious clash of tastes between the two presidents. While Tito openly guzzled Scotch whisky Nixon, no slouch at flag showing, drank Campari or 'red wine with a lemon twist' as the pool report showed. Tito smoked an American cigar while Nixon would have liked nothing more than a forbidden Cuban stogie.

As Nixon took off in Air Force One I noticed it carried the serial number 26000; the same plane in which Lyndon Baines Johnson was inaugurated hours after the assassination of John Kennedy. It brought back memories. But there has been sharp escalation in these presidential tours since 1963. For instance: there is Air Force One and Air Force One-A; a communi- cations jet; a jet cargo for Nixon's two bullet-proof limousines; presidential 'nen-

copter Marine One and its mate Marine One-A; two giant jets for the White House press corps. The cost to the American tax-. payer is easily over Ll million. The cost to the television networks for this pointless thrust in the Med is estimated at least at £400,000. Nixon follows and leaves trailing behind about, 400 people,.