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Western Press Review: Commentators Look To The Forthcoming Meetings In Birmingham And Belgrade


By Joel Blocker, Dora Slaba, and Alexandre d'Aragon



Prague, 14 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- In a week dominated by reactions to India's resumption of nuclear testing, Western press commentary has also touched on several other important international events. Some analysts look forward to this weekend's (May 16-17) summit meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations plus Russia in Birmingham, England. Others comment on the 50th anniversaries of the creation of Israel -- celebrated today under the Gregorian calendar -- and the Berlin airlift. Tomorrow's planned meeting in Belgrade between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova also receives some attention.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Generous debt relief would be at least a start

Britain's Financial Times today ( suggests that "debt relief should be high on the (G7's) agenda." The paper writes in an editorial: "The leaders meeting (in Birmingham have been asked) to forgive (that is, cancel) the unpayable debt of the world's poorest countries. (They) ought to promise radical debt reduction for countries that have demonstrated good performance (and) show greater generosity to those poor countries that are making a real effort to improve their ways, often in enormously difficult circumstances." The editorial concludes: "Generous debt relief will not solve (the poor countries') problems. But it would be at least a start."

NEW YORK TIMES: We can expect all manner of booms and busts in the emerging markets

In a commentary for the New York Times earlier this week, economic analyst Jeffrey Garten proposed that the G-7 meeting address the world's international finance system, which he said "has become crisis-ridden in the past two decades." Garten wrote: "The top industrial nations...can start designing what is being called a 'new architecture' for global finance, including tighter regulation and more extensive disclosure of financial statistics in emerging markets. Also, they can create the conditions for a more effective IMF (International Monetary Fund).... But," he added, "even if all that is done, the problems threatening the global economy will not go away." The commentary continued: "The (recent) East Asian meltdown is only the latest in a series of financial collapses....No one can predict where the next crisis might come from, or precisely when....The most serious threats to financial stability occur when an economic and political system is in transition -- the condition that obtains today in Asia, Latin American and the former communist countries. We can expect all manner of booms and busts in the emerging markets, with global fallout."

BOSTON GLOBE: No economy is an island anymore...

G-7 member Japan's economic problems were the subject of a commentary yesterday in the Boston Globe. Columnist David Nyhan wrote: "No economy is an island anymore....The Japanese Government's inability to deal with the severe structural problems of its once-high-flying economy is making it impossible for the rest of Asia to recover." He said: "Japan still shrinks from the necessary medicine: cleaning up the rotting banks, deregulating the sclerotic financial system, letting foreign competitors into domestic markets, cutting (that is, reducing) the budget deficit, cutting taxes." Nyhan concluded: "The U.S. the IMF and the World Bank can bail out the smaller economies of Thailand, Indonesia, Korea. But...only Japan save Japan -- and (the Government of Prime Minister Ryutaro) Hashimoto has yet to begin with the serious bailing."

TRIBUNE DE GENEVE: After the creation of the State of Israel, the world will never be the same, for the Jews as well as for others

Turning to Israel's jubilee celebrations, Switzerland's Tribune de Geneve writes in an editorial today: "The anniversary comes as the nation is the midst of international torment, as it has always been since 1948....It is right and fortunate that this country, so unlike others, was able to come into being. Seen from Europe, that's the least that could have been done for the Jewish people after the horrors (it) suffered in the 1930s and 1940s....After the creation of the State of Israel, the world would never be the same, for the Jews as well as others." The editorial continues: "Israel shares historical and cultural affinities with the Palestinians but rivalry led it to turn its back on this people and on the Arab world that surrounds its...The breakthrough of the past 10 years has been Israel's acceptance by the majority of Arab states -- without enthusiasm, to be sure -- as an irrevocable fact...On the other hand, Israel's existential problem that, election after election, is always put off, has to do with the will of Israelis to make themselves at home in the Middle East, not remain above or outside of it."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: 1948 signifies the 'catastrophe' in which Palestine ceased to be an Arab country

Writing for the Los Angles Times news service yesterday, international-affairs analyst Rashid Khalidi said that "for another people, 1948 also has a very special meaning. This people is the Palestinians." Khalidi said: "For them, 1948 signifies the year in which about 750,000 of the country's Palestinian population of nearly 1.4 million became refugees, and in which its Arab inhabitants were dispossessed of most of Palestine's land and other property. It signifies what Palestinians call 'al-Nakba,' or 'the catastrophe,' in which Palestine ceased to be an Arab country and disappeared from the map, and the Palestinians became a non-people." The commentary concluded: "Hopefully, some day we may look forward to the prospect that 1948 can be commemorated both in terms of the very different meanings it has for both peoples, and for the self-determination, independence and freedom of both, things that at present are enjoyed by only one of them."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The choices that faced the leaders in 1948 left little room for fudging

The Wall Street Journal Europe today celebrates another jubilee anniversary. In an editorial, the paper writes: "Remembering the Berlin Airlift of 50 years ago is for anyone who likes a feel-good story. A model military intervention, the airlift's success arose out of strong leadership, assiduous coalition building and a bold tactical calculation. It not only delivered Joe (sic) Stalin his first defeat of the Cold War, but it helped cement America's commitment to European security and to the rehabilitation of a war-devastated and demoralized Germany." The editorial continues: "Unlike the crises that arise in today's multipolar world in places like Bosnia or Rwanda, the choices that faced the leaders of the U.S., Britain and France in 1948 left little room for fudging: Letting Berlin starve or be taken over by the communists would have mean sacrificing some of the gains that had just been won in war and jeopardizing the future peace and security of Western Europe....It's good to remember the airlift," the paper concludes, "just to recall that leaders once rose to such a challenge."

NEUE OSNABRUECKER ZEITUNG: The meeting offers a hope

Two German newspapers today assess the importance of tomorrow's expected meeting between Yugoslav President Milosevic and ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova. The Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung says that "after weeks of escalation in Kosovo there is at last a signal of a slackening of tensions." In an editorial, the paper writes:

"The meeting, the first of a series and without pre-conditions, offers a chance that hard lines will be softened and that the shooting will soon cease in the troubled Serbian province. But this is only a hope since neither of the two sides has yet altered its original stance. So far, Milosevic's readiness (to meet Rugova) is merely a gesture that costs him nothing but which can bring him advantages." The paper sums up: "Milosevic must be measured by deeds not by words....He will qualify for rewards only when the former (autonomous) status of the province is restored and the ethnic Albanian population there enjoys equality (with the resident Serbs)."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: None of this has yet produced a solution to the conflict

In a commentary from Belgrade for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Bernhard Kueppers says it is "high time" for the Milosevic-Rugova encounter. He writes: "To be sure, (the meeting) does not mean that a brake has been put on the violence in Kosovo....Arrangements for subsequent weekly talks in Pristina will be a delicate subject -- not to mention establishing a framework for the overall settlement of the conflict." Kueppers continues: "The success of the four days of shuttle diplomacy by the U.S. broker Richard Holbrooke, who earlier mediated the end of the Bosnian war with the Dayton Accords, appears to have met more the demands of the 'president of the Kosovo Albanians' than the powerful man in Belgrade. Yet Rugova ...first had to abandon his long-time demand for the participation of a 'third party' in the talks. Milosevic has had less trouble with his concessions: He is now apparently taking into his hands as Yugoslav President the 'internal matters' of the Serbian Republic. But none of this," Kueppers adds, "has yet produced a solution to the conflict --either according to the West's formula for a 'special status' for the province within Yugoslavia or, as Albania has suggested, the creation of a third Yugoslav republic of Kosovo in addition to Serbia and Montenegro."

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