TOKYO, NOV. 21 -- Can Bad News Brown and Panic in the Zoo bring peace to the Persian Gulf?
A well-known member of the Japanese Diet, or parliament, announced here today that he will stage a "Sports and Music Peace Festival" at Saddam Arena in Baghdad on Dec. 2, starring professional wrestlers, karate experts and rock singers from Japan and other countries, all designed as "an appeal for a peaceful solution to the gulf crisis."
The spectacle, featuring an American pro wrestler known as Bad News Brown and a Japanese rock group called Panic in the Zoo, is the brainchild of Kanji Inoki, a member of the upper house of the Diet.
A political maverick who won election to the national legislature purely on the strength of his popularity as a pro wrestler, Inoki has been engaged in his own version of shuttle diplomacy. He has made two trips to Iraq since the current Mideast crisis began in August. Today he said his "festival for peace" has the endorsement of the Iraqi government.
The Japanese government and media have essentially ignored Inoki's budding friendship with the Iraqi government. But that may be harder to do now, since Inoki says he plans to take to Baghdad about 100 family members of Japanese hostages now held in Iraq. He suggested that he may be able to bring some hostages home with him.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been dealing with individual leaders and ex-officials from various countries in an apparent effort to split the multinational coalition aligned against him. But Inoki, surrounded at his press conference by hulking wrestlers and long-haired members of Panic in the Zoo who wore oversize Stetsons and black sunglasses, brushed aside the suggestion that he is being "manipulated" by Saddam. "This effort is about peace, and it is a separate thing from the politics among the countries," the Diet member said.
Inoki, one of several sports and theater stars who have used their celebrity to win seats in the Diet, was known here as "Antonio" during his days in the ring, but is now called "Dr. Inoki" because of his governmental stature. He made almost no mark on the political world until the Mideast crisis spurred him to mount his lone-wolf effort to bring about peace.