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Western Press Review: Iran And Europe

  • Don Hill



Prague, 4 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary turns to some of the questions that puzzle united Europe, including how to treat with Iran.

LONDON GUARDIAN: Iran's reform forces need discreet encouragement

The paper says today in an editorial that the European Union (EU) should encourage Iran's new administration, but it should do so ever so gingerly. It says: "Iran has been the Great Satan for the United States (and vice-versa) for a very long time -- except for a brief wobble during the allied Gulf War against Iraq. European countries too have been alienated by suspicions of terrorist involvement and -- particularly for Britain -- by the Salman Rushdie affair. Against this background, hopes of change under new President Mohammed Khatami, who took power in Tehran yesterday, have been very muted. Yet it would be a mistake to talk down too far the possibility of more hopeful changes -- and in doing so perhaps to make them less likely."

The Guardian says: "Helping Mr. Khatami to ease Iran forward -- without giving ammunition to the hardliners -- will be diplomatically delicate. But the West must make a serious effort to do so, and finding a formula to get the EU ambassadors back to Tehran, would be a start. Half of all Iranians still live in poverty, in a country which is the world's third largest oil exporter. Iran's reform forces need discreet encouragement. The story of the revolution is far from over."

LONDON GUARDIAN: European governments are expected to reject renewal of diplomatic relations with Iran



An unsigned analysis today from the paper's correspondent in Brussels is pessimistic about the prospects for soon resuming normal diplomatic traffic between EU and Iran. The writer says: "European governments are expected today to reject suggestions by Iran that they should renew their diplomatic relations with Tehran, broken off earlier this year after Iranian leaders were implicated in a terrorist attack in Berlin five years ago."

The analysis says: "Diplomatic efforts between the EU and Iran have been under way to end the break in relations which followed the trial in Germany of Iranians accused of massacring Iranian Kurdish exiles in a Berlin restaurant."

It says: "Led by Germany, hitherto one of the keenest to do business with Tehran, 14 of the 15 EU governments -- the exception was Greece -- withdrew their ambassadors, ending the policy of 'constructive dialogue.' They agreed earlier in the summer to return their envoys to Iran, but rescinded the decision when the Iranian government said the German ambassador, Horst Beschmann, would not be welcome."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The West doesn't always practice what it preaches

The paper editorializes today that Russia also needs Western support. The paper says support should be more than lip service, and should include greater attention to fair foreign trade behavior. The newspaper says: "EU or U.S. policy makers almost daily praise efforts by Russian and other former Soviet bloc nations to achieve free-market reforms, and that's fine with us. But when we look at the behavior of the would-be mentors of ex-communist states, we are reminded of a line once heard from a somewhat soiled evangelist: 'Don't do as I do; do as I tell you.' When it comes to trade, the West doesn't always practice what it preaches.

"Russia's leaders have become especially critical of the creative ways Western nations find to keep Russian goods out of their markets. Their complaints seem to us to have some justification."

The editorial says: "One of Russia's problems is that it still is classified by Washington and Brussels as a non-market economy, as if nothing had changed since communist days." It concludes: "EU and U.S. cheerleading for the free market is fine, but Russia would like something a bit more substantial."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blair impressed European leaders with his flexibility

In a news analysis today, Ray Mosely says that Britain, under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair, is about to become a greater force in Europe. He writes: "After just three months in office, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has established himself as the most talked about political leader in Europe since Margaret Thatcher left the stage in 1990." He says: "Blair's government is seen at home as a refreshing change from the tired, listless administration of his Conservative predecessor, John Major."

Mosely writes: "At his first major outing on the European political stage in June, Blair impressed fellow heads of government with his flexibility and willingness to involve Britain more in Europe after the sterile negativism of the Conservative years. Next year he will have an opportunity to take center stage in international affairs as Britain assumes the presidency of the 15-nation European Union and plays host to the Group of Eight summit of leading industrialized nations in the summer."
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