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Western Press Review: Kosovo, Caspian Negotiations And World Cup Capture Headlines

By Lisa Kammerud and Esther Pan

Prague, 9 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Today's Western press commentary ranges widely, but touches on volatile issues around the world including Kosovo's continuing crisis, a Kazakhstan-Russia oil agreement, a Clinton visit to Moscow, and Croatia's World Cup loss.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: The prime error is the refusal to allow any discussion of independence for Kosovo

In a commentary in the Daily Telegraph, London, Noel Malcolm writes that the Contact Group on Kosovo (United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia) is pursuing illogical policies. Malcolm says: "'We will not repeat the mistakes we made over Bosnia.' This phrase, uttered by Western foreign ministers whenever they have talked about the crisis in Kosovo, has proved only partially correct. While repeating at least some of those mistakes, they have also managed to repeat one made even before the Bosnian war -- and have added some new errors for good measure." Malcolm writes: "The Western governments' prime error is their refusal to allow any discussion of independence for Kosovo. Here they repeat the same mistake they made in 1991, when they told the Slovenes (that independence) was out of the question."

The commentary continues: "They (Western governments) fail to understand that Kosovo's case simply applies the precedent under which Slovenia and Croatia gained independence: the argument is based not on ethnic maps, but on the legal rights of the constituent units of the old, federal Yugoslavia. Kosovo was one such unit: Macedonia was another. If Western governments accepted the argument for Kosovo's eventual independence on this basis, they would actually be strengthening their support for Macedonia's own integral statehood."

LIBERATION: The muscular efforts over Kosovo have had results

Marc Semo disagreed, saying in a commentary yesterday in the Paris daily Liberation that the international community does recognize the complexity of the Kosovo conflict. Semo wrote: "Day after day, the Kosovo question reveals itself to be more and more inextricable, and the great powers of the Contact Group on the ex-Yugoslavia, which is meeting in Bonn, show the difficult considerations behind their tough talk. (They) are perfectly conscious of the potentially devastating character of the conflict in the southern Serbian province, (which) risks drawing in neighboring countries, notably Macedonia and Albania."

Semo said: "NATO has prepared in ostentatious fashion different intervention scenarios, from preventative deployment on the Albanian and Macedonian borders to the establishment of a no-fly zone to ground force intervention. The muscular efforts have had results. Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic had not yet dared to use his potentially crushing military superiority."

DIE WELT: Russia's ailing treasury stands to earn handsome transit fees

Manfred Quiring writes in a news analysis in the German daily Die Welt says both Kazakhstan and Russia stand to benefit from an agreement on sharing Caspian Sea oil resources. Quiring writes: "On Monday, (Kazakh President Nursultan) Nazarbayev and (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin signed in the Kremlin a treaty demarcating their spheres of interest in the northern sector of the Caspian Sea. So Russia has finally abandoned its long-held view that the Caspian is a lake and that its oil and gas reserves should be jointly exploited."

Quiring continues: "Yet Yeltsin's consent to the new arrangement was anything but a 'Tsar's gift,' as one Russian newspaper called it. In return, Nazarbayev undertook to send Kazakh oil through a pipeline that has yet to be laid to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossisk. So Russia's ailing treasury stands to earn handsome transit fees."

LIBERATION: The accord will relaunch the political and economic battle

Jean-Pierre Perrin wrote in a commentary yesterday in the Paris daily Liberation that the agreement is incentive for future negotiations on Caspian oil sharing. Perrin writes: "The signing Monday of an accord on the sharing of petroleum reserves in the Caspian Sea by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev will relaunch what is for many experts the political and economic battle of the next years: the transport of black gold (oil)." Perrin continues: "The whole region is surrounded by oil and gas conglomerates from Russia, the US, China, and Iran, who are trying to get in on the stakes, (and) the accord between Russia and Kazakhstan constitutes bait in the regulation of the reserves."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton was right to schedule a September trip to Moscow

An editorial in the Washington Post says U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to Moscow in September may come later than needed. The newspaper says: "President Clinton said he wouldn't go to Moscow until Russia's parliament ratified the START II (nuclear arms reduction) treaty, (and) his understandable motive was to press for progress in arms control that would benefit both countries. But the gambit, if it ever made sense, long ago moved into the realm of the counterproductive. It allowed U.S.-Russia relations to be held hostage by the Duma, or lower house of parliament. (Thus) Mr. Clinton was right this week to schedule a September trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, even though START II won't have been ratified by then."

The editorial continues: "As it happens, Mr. Clinton's decision comes at another moment of great peril for Russia's young experiment in democracy. This time the danger is financial. (However) in recent months, focusing on China and mistakenly postponing a Moscow trip, he (Clinton) has devoted far too little attention to the U.S.-Russia relationship, and to explaining its importance to Americans."

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: This was Croatia's coming out party

In the U.S. daily the Dallas Morning News, Kevin Blackistone writes in a commentary that Croatia's presence in the World Cup semi-final was important despite its loss. Blackistone writes: "One by one, after the referee stretched out his arms, (the) Croatian players made their way to a far corner of the field where almost everyone sported red-and-white checkered shirts and other red-and-white checkered clothes. (Those) are the colors of Croatia. (Nowadays) the Eastern European country's colors (might) indicate flesh and blood. For this is a place ripped apart earlier this decade by an awful civil and ethnic war.

"That was what made a very common practice in World Cup soccer, the players' acknowledgment of their fans, so special when the Croatians did so after coming up a goal short, 2-1, Wednesday against France in the semifinal." The commentary continues: "This was their first World Cup. This was the most spotlight they would gain on the world's stage since gaining independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Other than, of course, those nightly newscasts of their war.

"This was Croatia's coming out party."