Tim Bell takes on Belarus
Has the veteran spin doctor Tim Bell - the former Saatchi & Saatchi adman who was instrumental in getting Margaret Thatcher into Downing Street in 1979 - landed his toughest PR assignment yet? Lord Bell has been hired by Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus's autocratic president, to makeover the country dubbed by US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice as an "outpost of tyranny" for its dire human rights record.
Lukashenko, who has been president since 1994, is seen by many as Europe's last dictator. The man who once argued that "not everything connected with Hitler was bad" has been accused by human rights groups for running an imitation Soviet regime with secret police and jailed political enemies.
Now Bell, who advised Mrs T on interview techniques, clothing and even hairstyle choices, has been invited to come up with a strategy to overhaul Belarus's dreary and despotic image. According to Lukashenko's website, the pair met last week at the president's office in Minsk.
Lukashenko hopes to court the west to boost his state's economy, Bell told the Moscow Times last week. "He would like his country to be better understood, and his successes to be better grasped," he said. "Lukashenko doesn't see why Belarus can't be a friend to the west and a friend to Russia at the same time."
Other clients of Bell's agency, Bell Pottinger, have included former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Bell did, however, turn down Robert Mugabe. ·