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Western Press Review: Kosovo, Iraq, Euro, Lazarenko

  • Don Hill



Prague, 24 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentators continue to discuss developments -- or the lack thereof -- in Kosovo. They turn also to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Britain's flirtation with the euro, and the flight of former Ukrainian prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: The negotiators should forget deadlines

From London, The Daily Telegraph scoffs at the notion that ancient hostilities between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians could be leashed in a few days of negotiations. The paper says in an editorial: "The inconclusive outcome of the Kosovo peace talks in Rambouillet yesterday is an example of what happens when short-term fixes are sought to ancient problems. It was clearly unrealistic to expect that after a fortnight sequestered together in a French chateau, Serbs and ethic Albanians could settle the differences that have brought them to war."

The editorial concludes: "To improve the chances of a substantial settlement and preserve their own credibility, the negotiators should forget deadlines and ultimatums, and prepare for the long haul."

NEW YORK TIMES: The West must do everything possible to keep the parties on track

On the contrary, The New York Times editorializes today, the West should renew its ultimatum. The Times says: "The West must do everything possible to keep the parties on track to a workable accord. It must keep alive the bombing threat against [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and not allow him to dictate conditions that will eventually undermine peace. If there is new violence or more attacks on members of the international verification mission now in Kosovo, NATO may have to use its air power in the days ahead to prevent greater bloodshed. The prospects for peace are not good. But they have not yet perished."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: It is necessary to take sides

The Wall Street Journal takes the Western intervention still farther. It says in an editorial: End the confusion. Take sides. The newspaper says: "Yet another final deadline for Kosovo's warring parties to sign a peace agreement passed yesterday. Given how muddied the Kosovo peace process has been over the past year, it is perhaps fitting that the talks ended in a cloud on confusion." The editorial concludes: "To face down a dictator like Milosevic, it is necessary to take sides. If that means backing Kosovo's right to independence, as the West did for Bosnia and Croatia, so be it."

SUEDDETSCHE ZEITUNG: The Kosovo crisis has inflamed Montenegro

And now, Montenegro enters the picture. Commentator Bernhard Kueppers writes from Vienna in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung: "The crisis in Kosovo has further inflamed the continuing row between Serbia and its tiny neighbor, Montenegro, the two republics which are now all that remains of the Yugoslav federation. The rump state's armed forces have roundly condemned Montenegro's determination to keep out of any military altercation with NATO over Serbia's troubled province." Kueppers writes; "The conflict with Belgrade began when [Montenegrin President Milo] Djukanovic took office two years ago and criticized Milosevic as an outdated politician who was preventing reforms and Yugoslavia's opening. This prompted Belgrade to refuse to recognize Djukanovic's election."

SUEDDETSCHE ZEITUNG: Desert Fox does not seem to have weakened Saddam's grip

Also in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, commentator Heiko Flottau in Iraq analyzes the effects of a U.S.-led campaign to bomb a different dictator into compliance. Flottau writes: "The U.N.'s weapons inspection team -- Unscom -- is all but defunct and the allies' bombs have flattened an arms factory where Unscom had already installed surveillance cameras. Now these production centers are free to make whatever they please.... Desert Fox does not seem to have weakened Saddam's grip on the country in any way."

TIMES: Monetary union membership would put Britain under irresistible pressure

The British press comments lengthily on Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement yesterday of an initiative moving closer to taking Britain into European monetary union. The Times is opposed. It says editorially: "Yesterday in the Commons, the Prime Minister fired the starting gun for his attempt to take Britain into monetary union. In substance as well as style, this was no mere change of gear." The editorial says: "If Britain were to join monetary union, the risk is that, far from increasing its influence for change, membership would put Britain under irresistible pressure to dismantle this country's hard-won reforms of the past two decades."

The Times says: "The cause of European integration is not best served by the notion that all countries must march in lock-step."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: It is not too early to resist

The Daily Telegraph is, if anything, more adamant. Its editorial says: "Any scheme that has in its title the words 'national' and 'plan' should always be approached with the gravest suspicion." The newspaper concludes: "By introducing the National Changeover Plan, Mr. Blair is hoping to edge us, unresisting, in the direction of the euro until it is too late to turn back. It is not too early to resist him."

SUEDDETSCHE ZEITUNG: A weak euro is a blessing in disguise

Meanwhile, the euro in Europe is doing better than the charts might suggest, writer Gerd Zitzelsberger in a commentary in the Suddeutsche Zeitung. He writes: "Less than two months after its debut the euro, the single European currency, has suffered its first bout of sudden weakness in foreign exchange markets. Or so it seems."

The writer says: "And yet, in reality, the euro is not in such a bad way at all. The attractiveness of a currency is reflected not just in its exchange rate but also in the level of long-term interest rates, on which central banks cannot exert any great influence in the short term. And even though debtors all over the world inundated the market with euro-denominated bonds in the New Year, European interest rates are still well below rates in the United States."

Zitzelsberger writes: "For European exporters a weak euro is a blessing in disguise and an economic booster par excellence. It is sure to give their sales more [help] than a small reduction in interest rates, as suggested by German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine."

SUEDDETSCHE ZEITUNG: Illegal immigrants stand virtually no chance

Daniel Broessler, commenting in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, examines the third of the current season's trio of celebrated fugitive cases -- Abdullah Ocalan, General Augusto Pinochet, and now Pavlo Lazarenko. Broessler writes: "If you plan to travel to the United States without a valid visa, then New York's John F. Kennedy airport is not your best choice. Illegal immigrants stand virtually no chance with customs officials there. Last weekend a visitor from Kyiv who 18 months ago would have been given a red-carpet welcome found that out to his own cost. He was Pavlo Lazarenko, Ukrainian prime minister from June 1996 to July 1997. He was taken into custody on arrival for not holding valid entry documents."

Before surfacing in New York, Lazarenko had written a letter to parliament from a Greek hospital where, he said, he was recuperating from a heart attack. Broessler writes: "There can be as yet only speculation as to why he headed for the United States. He may have been worried by the way Greece had treated Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and feared he might be sent back to the Ukraine."
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