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François Duriaud, a reassuring presence in a crisis

Our careers intersected operationally only once but our encounter in early January 1980 in Delhi bureau, which François headed, was enough to provide the measure of the man. Heavily-built, slow-moving, reticent but with a face full of humour, François had presence and exuded natural authority.

I had arrived in Delhi from Kabul, expelled by the pro-Soviet Afghan authorities after arriving from Moscow to cover the Soviet military incursion.

“Just sit down. The office is yours. Just write what you have seen and what you know. You are the only Reuters correspondent to have been there since the Soviet Union went in. We all want to know what is going on,” was his brief message.

Few words. No pressure. No panic. No harassing. Only encouragement.

I stayed on in Delhi for two or three days and realised quickly that the staff - they included the late Najmul Hasan and Granville (Bob) Watts among many others - adored him for that quiet leadership.

François Duriaud was a class act. ■