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IN SHORTS

Schuster: I paid ransom to kidnappers

AT THE opening of an exhibition of his private photographs of a holiday in Brazil in 2000, President Rudolf Schuster claimed to have paid part of a ransom to Amazon natives who allegedly kidnapped him.

The president, who has referred to the alleged kidnapping in the past, said he had sent his kidnappers "clothing and gasoline", although not the "several million dollars, the Mercedes car, and I don't know what else they wanted then."

"I sent them what I could," he told exhibition visitors.

The president also related an incident in which he claimed to have been chased by Amazonians in cars. "We were all scared out of our wits. Finally we were able to breathe easy - we managed to escape."

Schuster said that being president was only slightly safer than holidaying in the jungle. "Now and then I get a letter from someone who wants to shoot me and so on," he said.

The president is noted for his occasionally unorthodox approach to his job, and recently aroused criticism for having a medical examination facility installed in the presidential palace. The move was apparently linked to his near death from a ruptured colon in 2001, and to his resulting distrust of Slovak public hospitals.

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