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Western Press Review: Commentary On Iraq, Kosovo, Germany and India

By Don Hill and Esther Pan

Prague, 4 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq is hanging fire. Kosovo is boiling, but not at the moment boiling over. National politics in Germany and India are in mid-stride. The EU is juggling multiple issues. In the Western press, commentators and editorialists are ranging the field with little consensus or focus.

The danger that Kosovo will be the tinder that re-inflames the Balkans occupies a variety of commentators:

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Kosovo isn't a local, Serb matter

The Christian Science Monitor (U.S.) in an editorial -- "Kosovo isn't a local, Serb matter. The volatile province could draw a wide cast of Balkan players into violent confrontation. Neighboring Macedonia has a large Albanian population. Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria all have interests. And Albania proper is vitally concerned about the well-being of its kin in Kosovo."

TIMES: The assertion by Slobodan Milosevic that this is an internal matter must be countered

The Times of London in an editorial -- "The brutal assaults by Serb riot police on demonstrators in Kosovo put peace in the Balkans once again at risk. An explosion in Kosovo has always had the potential to spill over into Albania to the southwest and to fracture the fragile political balance in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, where ethnic Albanians form a large and fractious minority. Trouble there could draw in almost every actor in the southern Balkans, including Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. No region of former Yugoslavia inspires greater anxiety in Nato. The assertion by the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, that this is an internal matter must firmly and swiftly be countered."

LE FIGARO: Milosevic cannot ignore the danger of an open war in Kosovo

Le Figaro (Paris) in an editorial -- "The international community is not making a mistake in stressing economic as well as military issues. But they must emphasize above all that (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic cannot ignore the danger of an open war in Kosovo, which could wreck his dream of a 'Greater Serbia.'"

TAGES-ANZEIGER: The international community must act quickly

Tages-Anzeiger (Zurich) in an editorial -- "The international community, if it desires a peaceful solution to the conflict, must act quickly to prevent a wider escalation."

SALZBURGER NACHRICHTEN: It is in Kosovo where the bloody circle could possibly close

Salzburger Nachrichten in an editorial -- "The underdeveloped and oppressed region of Kosovo is where the Yugoslav conflict began ten years ago, and it is here that the bloody circle could possibly close."

Newspapers in Germany, England and the United States continue to take note of the emergence of Gerhard Schroder, the Social Democrat from Lower Saxony, as a viable challenger to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. They perceive Schroder as strong, pragmatic, attractive -- and enigmatic:

FINANCIAL TIMES: Will the real Mr Schroder please stand up?

The Financial Times (Britain) in an editorial -- "In short, he remains an enigma. He pays lip service to the need for reform of the cumbersome German tax system, and its over-regulated labor market. He talks of forging an alliance between business, labor and government. So does Chancellor Kohl. The SPD challenger has yet to prove that he can combine clear leadership with the negotiating skills needed to forge a consensus in Germany's coalition-based politics. Will the real Mr. Schroder please stand up?"

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The details of his ideas on economic policy still appear nebulous

Suddeutsche Zeitung, column by Gerhard Hennemann -- "Schroeder will have to come out politically in the coming weeks. He has to show unambiguously which concrete issues he intends to stand up for as prospective German chancellor and which of the traditional currents within the SPD he wishes to interrupt or at least to channel. Despite the laurels which he has been able to garner with his economic policy statements on innovation and growth, both in public and, with certain concessions, at the SPD party conference in Hanover, the details of his ideas on economic policy still appear nebulous."

NEW YORK TIMES: Schroder has yet to shape himself or his party

The New York Times, in an editorial yesterday -- "Schroder has yet to shape himself or his party as a convincing exponent of the new, radical centrist approach represented by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain or, to a lesser extent, Bill Clinton. (He) waxes enthusiastic about the power of business and markets to create jobs, but also staunchly defends middle-class benefits and subsidized employment."

LE SOIR: Gerhard Schroder as the incarnation of the will to change

Le Soir (Belgium) in an editorial -- Schroder is "a media darling who enjoys a huge popularity with the people. (He is) the German Tony Blair (and the Social Democrats) will emphasize the person of Gerhard Schroder as the incarnation of the will to change."

The apparent advancement of European Union plans to create a single European currency generates wonderment and self-congratulation in the West:

FINANCIAL TIMES: Thus far it has been the skeptics who have been proved wrong

The Financial Times (Britain) in an editorial Monday -- "The question now is whether the 11 (participating nations) will behave as members of a monetary union from the launch day of January 1, 1999. That will require a degree of policy co-ordination none has yet learned. And the challenge will be coping with unemployment. If it rises, whether in Germany or in Spain, it will put huge political pressure on the system. But political conviction is what has got them to the starting line. Thus far it has been the skeptics who have been proved wrong."

IRISH TIMES: The risks attached to EMU entry have diminished significantly

The Irish Times, in a commentary by economist Terry Baker -- "The risks attached to EMU entry have diminished significantly since mid-1996, while some of the risks that would be faced had Ireland opted to delay entry to EMU have tended to increase. With hindsight, it appears that our 1996 assessment underestimated the advantages of initial entry. The balance of risks now seems to confer a clear-cut and substantial benefit to Ireland from the decision to join EMU at its outset."