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Western Press Review: Press Commentary Ranges World

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba



Prague, 23 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- From diplomatic solecisms in Belarus to moral quandaries on a presidential trip to China, Western press commentary today ranges the globe.

INDEPENDENT: The affair has served as a reminder of the president's relish for troublemaking

The Independent, London, carries today a news analysis by Phil Reeves looking askance at Belarusian bully tactics toward its foreign diplomatic community. Reeves writes: "Loathed by the West and regarded askance even by his friends in Moscow, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka led Belarus into still deeper isolation yesterday as ambassadors from seven countries, including Britain, flew out of the former Soviet republic. The United States and Japan joined five European Union countries in withdrawing their envoys (in) protest over their eviction from their diplomatic residences by the virulently anti-Western leader."

The writer says: "Although Belarus has protested its innocence and accused the West of overreacting and playing politics, the affair has served as a reminder of the president's relish for troublemaking, which he has exhibited regularly since his arrival in power in 1994."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The Belarusian president is lashing out at everyone he perceives to be in his way

Lukashenka demands a level of respect that he doesn't offer, commentator Josef Riedmiller suggests in today's Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Riedmiller says: "Germany Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, has described Belarus's treatment of its foreign diplomats as 'without precedent in the history of diplomacy.' He is exaggerating. Diplomats have been beaten up before, some even killed. But (Lukashenka), the prickly Belarusian president, has stopped just short of such excesses. He is merely lashing out at everyone he perceives to be in his way."

The writer comments: "The impression is that his rude manner is aimed not only at enlarging his own living space (he lives in the same complex where the diplomats resided). It appears to have a highly political background, too.

You do not have to search long to find the reason. Lukashenka is upset by everything that appears to refute his own views of his country. He has refused to allow the Belarus opposition to air their views in the media. He feels animosity towards the Western countries because they will not accept his autocratic style of government."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The president faces a tough mediation task

Another commentary in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, by Peter Brod, concludes that Czech President Vaclav Havel will need a brain surgeon-like deftness to mediate politically after the weekend's Czech elections. The writer says: "Five parties will be represented in the lower house of the new Czech parliament, and the two leading parties in particular have good reason to feel confident. The Social Democrats were backed by one Czech voter in three as a modern, Western European-style left-wing party, and their leader, Milos Zeman, can hope to be entrusted with forming a government. But the runner-up, outgoing premier Vaclav Klaus, has impressively given the lie to rumors of his political demise. The Civic Democratic Party, barely viable without him, may in certain circumstances hope to become the prime mover in a right-of-center coalition."

Brod comments: "The president nevertheless faces a tough mediation task, having upset both Klaus and Zeman with criticism and indiscreet remarks. His dream, he recently said, was a government made up of younger politicians. But this time round he will have to try and make do with the old hands again."

BASLER ZEITUNG: The personal animosities will make it difficult to form a government

From Switzerland, the Basler Zeitung perceives -- not cause for optimism in the Czech electoral outcome -- but "unhealthy polarization." The newspaper editorializes: "The elections have not brought a clear majority for anyone, but rather have confirmed an unhealthy polarization. The personal animosities among the chief protagonists on the political scene will hence make it difficult to form a government. Considering the stalemate, the prominent man in the Prague Castle gains greater importance: all attention in this procedural exit point is focused on President Havel. He makes no secret of his mindfulness of the 'quarrelsome party politicians'. Prior to the elections he threatened that he might appoint an independent person to form a government. But Havel's room to move, taking into account the majority results, is limited. Whatever, an end to the political instability in the Czech Republic is not in sight."

L'EQUIPE: The show must go on

The French sports newspaper L'Equipe ponders in a commentary today the deeper meaning of soccer hooliganism: "In the light of the new melodramas, sports professionals and mad soccer fans, to whom we belong, ask what mistakes have they made to lead to such barbarity. Undoubtedly none, not counting the one to exist and to represent a considerable media influence, the most important of all. As always we will, once more, cite the classic verse: life, soccer and the spectacle go on. What else should one say? What else is there to do? If we are not hypocritical. The show must go on. Hundreds and millions of people will be enthusiastic about it. The cry of 'Ola' will resound in sequence in the stadiums, and the rowdies will continue to be ready for war."

NEWSDAY: Two wrongs do not make a right

Dimitri K. Simes is president of The Nixon Center in Washington and a special correspondent for, the U.S. newspaper Newsday. He writes in a commentary that a NATO incursion into Kosovo would be wrong. Simes comments: "Slobodan Milosevic is clearly the principal villain in the Balkans' continuing human tragedy. His brutal crackdown in Kosovo is contrary to contemporary standards of civilized conduct. Despite this, two wrongs do not make a right: NATO's use of force against a sovereign state acting to protect its territorial integrity (amid an armed rebellion supported from abroad) would violate international law and damage important U.S. national interests as well. Moreover, notwithstanding today's anti-Serb climate, it would be morally wrong."

Simes concludes: "NATO military maneuvers around Yugoslavia may -- just may -- intimidate Milosevic into surrender. (But) it is much more likely that new saber-rattling will leave NATO, and first and foremost the United States, with a choice between using force and losing credibility. This is one choice that America does not need to face."

TIMES: It is depressing that Mr Clinton sets out for China with so heavy a domestic handicap



The Times, London, editorializes today that U.S. President Bill Clinton's widely-opposed China trip has substantial potential value. The newspaper says: "The first trip to China by an American president since 1989 was always bound to be controversial....But such difficulties do not make the U.S. effort pointless. China is changing; it is a less tightly controlled society than in 1989. To enjoin Beijing to liberalization at home and responsibility abroad is in everyone's interest; it is depressing that Mr Clinton sets out with so heavy a domestic handicap."

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