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EU trade chief's 'side-trip' included Paul Allen's New Year party

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European trade commissioner Peter Mandelson enjoyed drinks with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and schmoozed with the stars on the Caribbean island of St Barthelemy at the New Year, it has emerged. Mandelson is one of a number of EU commissioners (all of them, actually) refusing to give details of hospitality they may have received from "friends", and Mandelson places the St Bathelemy trip in this category.

One often wonders where politicians pick up these amazing "friends" who're nothing to do with their day job, and Peter's friends have long been a particularly fascinating subject in UK political circles. In this case, according to reports, Mandelson was among 100 guests on Allen's yacht, but although he met Allen he didn't speak to him. We must therefore presume that it's more likely that he went to the party with some other friends, and that Allen doesn't count as a friend, as such.

Who might they be? Regrettably, we know not, but local scribe Ellen Lampert-Greaux's January column provides us with a dazzling list of possibilities - Uma Thurman, Allens Paul and Woody, Spielberg, Lucas, Brad Pitt... no data on the "peers" and "world business leaders", unfortunately.

Mandelson was in the Caribbean in advance of official business in Trinidad and Guyana, and took a side trip from 30th December to 3rd January, paying the additional costs himself. He was with "personal friends of long standing with no relation whatsoever to his official position, his official duties, the trade portfolio or the Commission," said a statement from his office. ®

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Gates drops in on Brussels

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