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Germany

Veteran German Social Democrat in Coma

Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski, a prominent veteran of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), was in a coma and fighting for his life in a Cologne hospital Monday, Express tabloid newspaper said, quoting an aide. Wischnewski was reported to be suffering from the effects of an infection brought on by influenza. "He is in a coma and has been fighting for his life since Saturday," Arnold Joosten was quoted as saying. Wischnewski, 82, was a key personality in the postwar SPD as a member of the leadership from the early 1960s to the early 1990s. He was particularly known for developing the party's relations with the Arab world. His contacts at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s with the National Liberation Front (FLN), fighting for independence for Algeria, particularly irked the North African country's then colonial ruler France. Wischnewski's contacts came in particularly useful in 1977 when, with then SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, he counseled a firm stand when a Lufthansa plane was hijacked by Palestinian guerillas at Mogadishu airport in Somalia in a bid to secure the release of imprisoned members of German extreme left-wing militant group the Red Army Faction (RAF). He negotiated with the Somali authorities to allow a German special forces unit to storm the plane and free the passengers taken hostage. Wischnewski was also closely involved in initial secret Israeli-Palestinian contacts that led to the 1995 Oslo peace accords.

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