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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Defining moments: Sheikh Yamani
A BBC series is asking some of the world's most influential people about the defining moments in their life.

Sheikh Yamani
Sheikh Yamani was head of Opec for 25 years
Sheikh Yamani was Saudi Arabia's minister for oil between 1962 and 1986 and is the former leader of the world's collective of oil-producing countries, Opec. He was in charge during the petroleum crisis in the 1970s, when oil prices rocketed. He remains an influential figure and recently predicted oil prices could rise to $100 a barrel - and beyond Opec's control.

In 1975 he survived being taken hostage by the notorious criminal Carlos the Jackal.

There are so many moments in my life.

If I choose one of them I will choose what happened in Vienna when the Opec conference was invaded by Carlos and his group.

He informed me that he had decided to kill me at the end and that I had only two days to live.

Then in the afternoon, when they sent their statement to the Austrian Government and they told them: 'Unless you announce our statements on your radio at four o'clock, at 4.30 we are going to kill Yamani and throw his body into the street.'

And he came and told me that. At four o'clock they did not announce the statements, so he told me: 'You have half an hour.'

Carlos the Jackal
Carlos the Jackal threatened to kill Yamani
I asked him if I could write my will, and I started writing my will. My feeling was very strange.

I never thought I would feel like that.

I was not really so scared of death as much as I was concerned about what I hadn't done in my life, and those I was leaving behind - my children, my wife, my mother, and so on.

And at 20 minutes after four he came and touched me, and I looked at him, I looked at my watch, and I told him: 'I have 10 more minutes to go.'

I was negotiating with that.

He said: 'No, you have more than that because they announced the statements.'

Then I realised, number one, that the fear of death might be much greater than when you really face death.

And secondly I realised that I have to do what I have to do on a daily basis - I must not delay things. And that is one of the important events in my life.

Defining Moments will run until 23 July on BBC World Service's World Today programme. You can also read people's recollections on BBC News Online.

Sheikh Yamani
"I was not really so scared of death as much as I was concerned about what I hadn't done in my life"

Defining the moment
09 Jul 03  |  In Depth


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