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Mon 15 Aug 2011 11:00 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 15 August 2011

Diplomacy is often presented as an art form, the peak of civilisation in a barren political world. But what happens when it is conducted with torturers, murderers and serial human rights abusers?

Lyse Doucet speaks to the politicians, diplomats and activists who have had to deal with the worst tyrants in modern history - from Saddam Hussein to Slobodan Milosevic - and how they coped with it. How did they operate when they knew the next meeting on the president's list might be held in the torture chamber? How did they separate emotion from the need to conduct business? And what if they found themselves actually liking the person even while abhorring their behaviour?

As well as the personal, Lyse asks tough questions about compromise and complicity. Is engagement always better than isolation in the case of tyrannical regimes? Is it, in other words, always good to talk?

Producer: Giles Edwards.


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