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Western Press Review: Balkans, Russia and Africa Search For Stability

  • Joe Schneider

Prague, 8 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. elections are over and Bill Clinton has another four-year mandate. Now, thoughts in the United States, and in much of the Western world, are returning to the question of Bosnia and what role American troops should play in a future peacekeeping role.

NEW YORK TIMES: U.S. involvement in Bosnia should be curtailed

The paper today reminds Clinton in an editorial that he promised that U.S. engagement in the former Yugoslavia would expire at the end of this this year.

The Times says: "The peacekeeping mission has gone more smoothly than expected a year ago...But there has been considerably less progress than predicted at reducing tensions between Bosnia's three main ethnic communities. Nationwide institutions exist mainly on paper, refugees remain unable to return to their homes, and the country's informal partition has grown increasingly entrenched. These setbacks increase the risks of renewed military conflict after foreign forces have withdrawn."

Regardless of the increased risks, though, the Times says U.S. involvement should be sharply curtailed. " The case for stationing soldiers rests on the role they might play in deterring new ethnic warfare. A mission concerned primarily with deterrence would require less firepower than the original assignment of separating the warring ethnic armies. Arguably, the job could be done by troops stationed in nearby countries like Hungary and Germany. It is far from clear why Americans would have to be as heavily represented in a deterrent force as they have been this year, when military strength was needed to assure the disengagement of the various Bosnian armies."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Tensions are developing between the U.S. and European NATO allies

The German paper also tackles the topic in today's article written by Eigener Bericht, saying "massive tensions are developing between the United States and its European NATO allies over the extension of the peace mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO's military leadership yesterday worked out four options for the continuation of the IFOR peace mission. But the Pentagon representative in Brussels, Gen. Thomas Montgomery, expressed his doubts and called for a solution including the withdrawal of U.S. troops. the NATO allies and the military planners, until now, believed America will participate in a follow-up IFOR mission."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The Yugoslav arms industry has been hurt by sanctions

While the debate goes on about U.S. participation in the IFOR mission, several Western articles focus on the increasing arms trade in the former Yugoslavia. Chris Hedges writes in the paper today that Western diplomats suspect Serbia is sending arms to Libya and violating an international trade embargo in the country. Hedges notes: "Belgrade has reopened the arms trade with Libya to bolster its sagging arms industry and, perhaps, to continue the barter arrangement Belgrade had set up before the war to receive Libyan oil. The Yugoslav arms industry, once one of the largest in Europe, has been badly hurt by the imposition of economic sanctions during the war and by a lack of foreign investment."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Arms from Belgrade intended for Libya?

Robert Fox deals with the same issue in today's paper. He notes "The main evidence that the arms trade has been reopened is the mysterious crash of a Russian cargo aircraft shortly after take-off from Belgrade on August 19...American intelligence analysts now believe it was carrying military equipment for Libya." Fox says: "The Libyan forces have been in desperate need of spares and ammunition since being hit by the embargo five years ago. With the end of the Cold War, Libya lost its main sponsors in Eastern Europe, East Germany and Czechoslovakia."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: How to keep Yeltsin from meat and vodka?

But it's not only the former Yugoslavia that is attracting attention of the Western press. The recovery of Russian President Boris Yeltsin from a quintuple bypass surgery is also dominating the pages. Betsy McKay writes in today's that Mr. Yeltsin is proving to be a tough patient. "Just two days after his grueling, six-hour operation, he demanded Thursday, with characteristic impatience, that his doctors check him out of the hospital.... Dr. (Michael) DeBakey (Yeltsin's U.S. heart consultant) convinced Mr. Yeltsin to remain in intensive care Thursday for another 24 hours. Now, he and the Kremlin doctors, face the harder task of getting the president of Russia to jettison the fatty meat cutlets he savors and to keep the vodka to a few sips."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Yeltsin wants to be seen as leading the political agenda

The paper's Alan Philips, focuses on Yeltsin's decree repudiating the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, in an article today. Philips writes: "In a clear sign that the Kremlin wants Mr. Yeltsin to be seen as leading the country's political agenda for the first time since he was re-elected in July, the President declared that the time was right to face up to Russia's troubled history. He ordered that November 7, still a public holiday marking the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 should be renamed the "Day of Concord and Reconciliation."

LE FIGARO: The Kremlin has a tendency to go wild when the 'master' is away

While Communists celebrated the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the paper's Irina de Chikoff believes the opposition is not the only reason Yeltsin wants to give the appearence of being in control at the Kremlin. de Chikoff writes today: "The Kremlin is always a place of intrigue. They have a tendency there to go wild when the 'master' is away. And the longer his absence, the greater the behind-the-scenes battles (for power)."

LONDON TIMES: A French force in Africa has no clear mandate

The growing refugee crisis in Zaire and Rwanda also concerns editorial writers today. In its lead editorial, the paper lashes out at a French proposal to send an international intervention force into the region. "The obvious objection to the French plan is that such a force has no clear mandate...a mission to the heart of Africa, in the absence of a ceasefire and without definition, is bound to end in recrimination. Caught in the crossfire of tribal conflict, it will provide neither short-term safety for refugees, nor a long-term solution to the disintegration of Zaire's despotic regime."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Zaire is a principal topic of discussion

Tony Barber and Christopher Bellamy write in the paper today that France's Foreign Minister, Herve de Charette, is frustrated by the West's reluctance to endorse the French plan. de Charette is quoted in the article as saying "The main obstacle is the international community's spinelessness." Barber and Bellamy say ""Zaire would be a principal topic of discussion at the Franco-British summit today. (Sources) said they were unlikely to announce a 'firm decision' to intervene in Zaire after today, but that they would not rule it out either."