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Western Press Review: Bosnia, Iraq, Asia Stir Hope, Anger, Anxiety

  • Don Hill

Prague, 22 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Much Western press commentary today examines progress in Bosnia, a new crisis in Iran, and continuing aftershocks from the economic earthquake that centered on Asia.

WASHINGTON POST: Developments in the Serbian portion of Bosnia represents a significant step forward

Articles in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times contend that significant signs of progress toward peace are growing visible in Bosnia, and a commentary in the International Herald Tribune argues that long-term peace there is achievable.

The Washington Post says today in an editorial: "In a country as fractured as Bosnia, the word breakthrough is invoked at considerable peril. But there is no question that a little-noticed development in the Serbian portion of Bosnia last Saturday represents, at the least, a significant step forward in the difficult process of restoring peace and building a new nation out of the wreckage of the post-Yugoslavia war. The parliament of the Republika Srpska, as it is known, chose as prime minister Milorad Dodik, 38, who supports democratization, the Dayton accords and integration with the Croat and Muslim institutions of the tripartite state. His election, by the narrowest of margins, delivers a blow to the Serb nationalist forces controlled by Radovan Karadzic that have been the single biggest -- though by no means only -- obstacle to the peace process."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Some of the most contentious elements in Bosnian peacemaking are starting to fall in place

Tracy Wilkinson writes in a news analysis in today's Los Angeles Times: "Like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that forever stumped its players, some of the most contentious elements in Bosnian peacemaking are starting to fall in place. The seating of a new, apparently cooperative Bosnian Serb government and a move by international mediators to impose decisions when no one agrees, have given new impetus to a two-year-old peace process stalled frequently by separatist bickering.

"(Yesterday), Western mediators unveiled a common currency that they have ordered Muslims, Serbs and Croats to accept; shared license plates and a flag are also on the horizon. These trappings are meant to unify the country but were vehemently resisted by a Bosnian Serb leadership dominated by supporters of war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. Western officials believe Karadzic and fellow hard-liners have been dealt a significant setback with the selection Sunday of a moderate prime minister for the Bosnian Serb half of this country."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The people who saw in Bosnia's future only a widening gyre are wrong

In his International Herald Tribune commentary, Michael Kelly writes: "For years now, the defining myth about Bosnia has been that everything bad that happened there was inevitable. The crack-up of Yugoslavia was inevitable, and it would invariably lead to civil war because the Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats of the unnatural state of Yugoslavia were filled with ancient hatred for each other. This war must sooner or later cause the destruction of Bosnia.

"That was all malignant nonsense. Yet even now, as Sarajevo rebuilds, the myth persists. The people who saw in Bosnia's future only a widening gyre see only that still. They were wrong and they are wrong. The destruction of Bosnia may yet happen, but it need not."

WASHINGTON POST: Stemming the Asian financial crisis is acting to safeguard America's interests

Laura D'Andrea Tyson, U.S. President Bill Clinton's economic adviser in his first term, is professor of economics and business administration at the University of California at Berkeley. She says in a commentary in today's Washington Post that Asia correctly is a focus of deep concern. Tyson writes: "The Asian financial crisis is one of the gravest of modern times. It holds significant contractionary risks not just for the Asian economies but for the entire global economy, including that of the United States. It also threatens the geopolitical stability of a region of paramount importance to American security interests." The writer concludes that the United States, in bearing the costs in dollars and political energy of containing the crisis, would be acting not altruistically but in its own interests. In her words: "Stemming the Asian financial crisis is not a matter of bailing out a few foolish investors and arrogant regimes with spotty human rights records. It is a question of acting to safeguard America's economic and security interests in a prosperous global economy and a stable Asia."

TIMES: Asian employment will again become firmer

Columnist William Rees-Mogg comments today in The Times of London that the Asian turmoil may carry its own remedy. He says: "There is likely to be a massive rise in Asia's surplus on the balance of trade. Imports from outside Asia will continue to be very low; as time goes on exports from Asia will rise sharply in volume and eventually in value. Asian employment will again become firmer. As China has not devalued, China and Hong Kong may suffer competitive pressures. The United States and Europe will lose exports and take in imports.

"Continental Europe will suffer the worst. The United States and Britain are now close to the limit of their expansion, but in Europe unemployment is already very high, at 12.5 per cent in France and Italy, close to 10 per cent in the former West Germany, and at 20 per cent in eastern Germany and Spain. Europe does not have the high technology of the United States, which gives some American exports a monopoly power."

DIE WELT: The dollar's rise reflects the weakness of its competitors

Bodo Scheffels comments similarly in today's editions of Germany's Die Welt "The financial crisis in East Asia is strengthening the dollar. No other currency can play a comparable role as safe haven for worried investors. Hence the dollar's rise reflects the weakness of its competitors -- and contains within it forces that inevitably will brake that climb."

WASHINGTON POST: Iraq's unyielding response appears to deepen the prospect of confrontation

Writers of analyses today in The Washington Post and the British daily Financial Times conclude that Saddam Hussein's latest behavior in Iraq compounds the likelihood of military confrontation there. John Lancaster writes from Cairo in The Post: "Given the importance that Washington has attached to Butler's two-day mission, Iraq's apparently unyielding response appeared to deepen the prospect of confrontation with the United States and Britain, which continue to build up their military forces in the Persian Gulf."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Defiance increases the prospect of military action

From New York, Laura Silber writes in the Financial Times: "Iraq raised the stakes in its confrontation with the United Nations by calling for a freeze on UN weapons inspections of sensitive sites. (The) defiance increases the prospect of military action, although a Western diplomat said the Security Council was likely to pass a resolution first -- and that no attacks would take place before the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan next week."