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Western Press Review: Saddam And Suharto Make News

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba

Prague, 15 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A frequent wily maneuver of diplomats is to avoid major confrontation by taking on some contentious issue one small slice at a time. This often is called "salami tactics," in reference to a type of sausage commonly cut into thin pieces to be eaten. The U.S. newspaper Christian Science Monitor refers in an editorial today to Iraq's graduated balking at UN arms inspections as "Saddami tactics." Other Western press commentary and analysis also takes up the issue of Iraqi flouting of inspection teams.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Saddam Hussein has tried various ploys

The Christian Science Monitor says: "Not surprisingly, Iraq's absolute ruler, Saddam Hussein, has tried various ploys, called Saddami tactics, to end the inspections and the controls on oil sales tied to their completion. Now, for a second time he has blocked a biological/chemical inspection team from doing its job. Iraq claims the UN-appointed technical experts are predominantly U.S. or British and led by a U.S. spy. Neither assertion comes close to accuracy." The editorial concludes, "The danger of (atomic-bacteriological-chemical) weapons threatening the world's major oil supply is simply too unthinkable for the UN to allow any halt of inspections."

WASHINGTON POST: Remembering what you set out to accomplish is said to become the hardest part of any complex human endeavor

Columnist Jim Hoagland, commenting today in The Washington Post, contrasts Saddam's tenacity to what Hoagland contends is U.S. President Bill Clinton's plasticity. Hoagland writes: "Remembering what you set out to accomplish is said to become the hardest part of any complex human endeavor. America's seven-year effort to punish Iraq's aggression against its neighbors and prevent future outrages is now endangered by the differing ways political memory serves Saddam Hussein and Bill Clinton. Circumstances and his own personality force the Iraqi dictator to cling to his original purpose with rare clarity and ruthlessness."

NEUE OSNABRUEK ZEITUNG: The arms inspectors mustn't tolerate any hindrance

From Germany today, the Neue Osnabruecke Zeitung says in an editorial that Saddam's tactics perplex the United Nations. the U.N. into a quandary. The newspaper says: "The arms inspectors mustn't tolerate any hindrance. Otherwise the Iraqi dictator would again soon start an open and massive armament drive. (But) a too vigorous -- say, military -- reaction would continue to fragment the opposition to Baghdad." Osnabruck is a city in lower Saxony.

WASHINGTON POST: The United Nations has intelligence

Also in The Washington Post, correspondent John M. Goshko writes in an analysis today from United Nations headquarters in New York that Iraq may have blocked the inspection team because it was looking into a "chilling" allegation. Goshko writes: "Adding a chilling sense of urgency to the situation was the revelation that the United Nations has intelligence indicating that Iraq, despite its categorical denials, may have conducted chemical warfare experiments on human prisoners."

The writer says: "By its action (yesterday), the council signaled what is likely to be a pause of about 10 days to see if the Iraqi government will heed its new admonition and back down. If Iraq refuses, as is widely expected, the council will be back in the same position it narrowly avoided in November - having to consider what steps it might take to force Iraq to comply with its orders. Last fall, it was clear that deep divisions within the 15-nation council would block a resort to military action or even severe new sanctions."

LE FIGARO: Asian economies will emerge stronger

The Western press also devotes substantial commentary and analysis to a continuing world financial crisis, centered in Asia and in recent days concentrated in Indonesia. The French daily Le Figaro Tuesday quoted the head of the French Overseas Trade Insurance Company as voicing guarded optimism that, while the next few years will be "tough," Asian economies will "emerge stronger" with "new opportunities" for French firms.

LE MONDE: Europe and Japan are reacting more slowly

The Paris daily Le Monde said that "apparent determination" by the United States to keep Indonesia from bankruptcy is reassuring investors. Le Monde said that Europe and Japan are "reacting more slowly."

LIBERATION: Global catastrophe is unlikely

The French daily Liberation wrote that some experts are "privately expressing alarm" at the possibility, however "unlikely," of a global "catastrophe."

WASHINGTON POST: This is a global version of a domestic banking panic

One such expert is economist Robert J. Samuelson, who commented yesterday in The Washington Post: "There is now a dawning recognition that Asia's financial crisis could be far more than a minor mishap for the U.S. and world economies. We are not dealing here only with a handful of countries that overborrowed abroad and are now being compelled to retrench. This is a global version of a domestic banking panic." Samuelson wrote: "No one knows whether the effort (to shore up Asian economies) will succeed.... panics are unpredictable."

NEW YORK TIMES: An important element of the IMF's rescue strategy backfired

The International Monetary Fund has critics and defenders of its reaction to the crisis and its handling of bailout efforts. David E. Sanger analyzed in yesterday's New York Times an internal report in which the IMF is its own critic and its own defender. Sanger wrote: "A confidential report by the International Monetary Fund on Indonesia's economic crisis acknowledges that an important element of the IMF's rescue strategy backfired, causing a bank panic that helped set off financial market declines in much of Asia." He wrote: "The report, distributed to IMF members last week, does not imply that the IMF bears any responsibility for worsening Indonesia's crisis. It attributes most of the blame to President Suharto's government, which it strongly criticizes for failing to enact promised reforms in exchange for the 40 thousand million dollars international rescue effort."

NEW YORK TIMES: It is also important that the IMF itself be more open

The New York Times said yesterday in an editorial that despite reality-based doubts about its efficacy, the IMF remains the best chance to limit financial chaos. The newspaper said: "Top officials of the International Monetary Fund rushed off to Indonesia this week to stanch an economic hemorrhage that the fund now concedes it worsened itself." It said: "Americans are understandably wondering whether the fund can be trusted to put together these kinds of bailouts and whether taxpayer dollars ought to be turned over to the fund so that it can indirectly repay Western banks that made foolish loans. The truth is that the IMF is the only organization that can organize an international response to financial crisis."

The editorial concludes: "But it is also important that the IMF itself be more open. Though it plays a powerful role in Latin America, Asia, Africa and nearly everywhere else, its policy prescriptions and analytical assessments remain largely secret. Had it initially disclosed more about its approach to Korea and Indonesia, some mistakes might have been avoided or identified more quickly. That could have spared millions of innocent workers throughout Asia needless pain."