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Friday, 23 February, 2001, 20:37 GMT
Gorbachev turns TV presenter
Former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev
Mr Gorbachev is 70 next week
By Chris Booth in Moscow

A key figure of the 20th century, Mikhail Gorbachev seems determined to keep himself busy in the 21st.

The former Soviet leader's latest project is to interview world leaders and senior politicians in a television series now in production.

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat will be Gorbachev's first interviewee
Geriatric inactivity and ill health are perhaps what ageing Soviet leaders are better known for. Not Mikhail Gorbachev. He celebrates his 70th birthday next week.

Having been a Communist general secretary, think tank chairman and international lecturer, Mr Gorbachev's latest incarnation is as a television presenter.

Baroness Thatcher, the Pope and Nelson Mandela are said to be among 13 world figures lined up to appear in a series called "Secrets of Power", hosted by Mr Gorbachev.

His Moscow office says filming with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat begins in late March, and in early April he will be talking to George Bush Sr.

No to Yeltsin

Munich-based Zolzer Television is behind the project. They say Gorbachev will visit his guests' homes, and key locations such as the site of the Berlin Wall, as they discuss their role in history.

Boris Yeltsin
A frosty "nyet" for Boris Yeltsin
One personality who will not appear is Boris Yeltsin. There is still no love lost between the former rivals for power.

Asked if the two would meet, a spokesman for Mr Gorbachev replied with a distinctly frosty "nyet".

Mikhail Gorbachev is still widely despised at home for plunging his people into turmoil.

But his grip on the imagination of the west seems undiminished. As a guest speaker he commands huge sums.

The American Pizza Hut chain engaged him to promote the pleasures of fast food in a television commercial.

The man remembered for dismantling communism remains one of capitalism's hottest brands.

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See also:

15 Sep 00 | Europe
Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev
25 May 00 | Europe
Gorbachev registers new party
24 Dec 97 | West Asia
Gorby gets teeth into fast food ad
20 Sep 99 | Europe
Raisa Gorbachev dies
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