The mouse snares the peace deal broker

8th May 1998 at 01:00
Nicolas Barnard reports from this week's Children's Summit held in Europe's Disneyland

It was like Stormont all over again. The media scrum outside. The resolute flunky with No Entry tattoed across his brow. The spin doctors' hints of the scenes inside - anger, tears, recriminations.

And sitting between the negotiators, former US senator George Mitchell, the man who brokered peace in Northern Ireland. Welcome to Disneyland Paris, sir.

Don't tell the men of violence, but when Mr Mitchell isn't mediating between warring factions he has a day job working with Mickey and Goofy on Walt Disney's board of directors.

That's what brought him to the fifth Children's Summit, a joint venture between the Disney Corporation and UNESCO, the United Nation's educational organisation.

Some 600 children aged eight to 12 from 50 countries descended on the park this week to explore the theme of growing up. Among workshops on nutrition, community and education were two on peacemaking, led by Mr Mitchell.

The workshops were conducted in an atmosphere of diligent concentration - despite dozens of roving TV cameras - but then the children were loose in the bizarre, candy-coloured Disneyland.

Perhaps it's one kind of dream of harmony to see hundreds of children from the globe's four corners together, their national differences erased by identical Summit windcheaters, caps and goody-stuffed backpacks.

The children certainly got the message - the slogan they voted to present to UNESCO yesterday was Italy's offering - "Friendship: the sun that never sets".

"We were a bit anxious about all the commercialism," one German teacher admitted. "But the idea of the summit is great - putting children of different nations together, having time to work and laugh."

Britain's 20 delegates came from the Rofft School in Wrexham who won a competition on nutrition to attend. It took them all of three hours to start swapping addresses with children from the other side of the world.

Mr Mitchell, helping two factions negotiate their way out of hypothetical land conflict, proved a surprise hit. "I might become a peacemaker.

It seems like a cool job," the Rofft School's Sarah Humphries, nine, told him.

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