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Reporters on the Job

Friend of Prometheus: Correspondent Annia Ciezadlo says that when she's working in Iraq, she often visits the Arnold Gym, owned by Sabah Mehdi (page 7). She's not there for a workout, but as a friend. And every time, they go through the same routine: "We talk. He serves me tea or orange soda. And then, he'll think of something he wants to show me, and he'll start rooting through the incredible mess on his desk.

" 'No, really, don't worry about it,' I'll tell him. 'No, no, it's right here,' he'll mutter, excavating 30 years' worth of papers, pictures, and old scrapbooks of Arnold Schwarzenegger to finally unearth some ancient letter or document only vaguely relevant to whatever he's talking about," says Annia.

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But there was one time she didn't try to stop him. It was last May, and he was talking about Nicholas Berg, the American contractor who had been kidnapped and beheaded by Islamic militants. "Mehdi was upset, because Berg was a friend of his - he used to train at the gym - and he wanted to show me a piece of paper Berg had given him.

" 'Be very careful, Iraq is very dangerous right now,' he kept telling me, searching for the paper. Finally, he found it: a white piece of paper, on which Nick Berg had written his US address and phone number. And then, heartbreakingly, the name of his business: 'Prometheus.' It reminded me that Prometheus was a Titan, who was rescued by Hercules - was a strongman like Mehdi. That Berg and Mehdi would be friends seemed appropriate," says Annia. 'He was my best friend,' said Mehdi, 'and I feel so sad for losing him.' "

David Clark Scott
World editor


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