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Western Press Review: Still Kosovo, But Other Issues Merit Comment

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba

Prague, 19 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Kosovo continues to dominate Western editorial pages, but it seems that a kind of battle fatigue has set in. Commentators increasingly are examining side issues, and writing more on unrelated international affairs.

GUARDIAN: An atmosphere of political tension and intrigue hangs over Moscow

The Guardian carries a news analysis by James Meek in Moscow examining the unfolding drama of corruption charges against the man who may be Russia's most influential businessman. Meeks writes: "Boris Berezovsky, the Russian tycoon and a former close associate of President Boris Yeltsin's family, returned to Moscow from France last night after the Russian prosecutor general's office fulfilled its promise to cancel a warrant for his arrest. Mr. Berezovsky said that he would testify to investigators (today) about allegations of money laundering and breaching commercial law."

Meeks says: "His arrival thickens an atmosphere of political tension and intrigue hanging over the capital as the Kremlin fights to distance itself from two simmering corruption scandals."

NEW YORK TIMES: Chileans are coming to realize how much of their democracy has been lost

Remember Pinochet? Britain still is detaining Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, who came to the Isles last year as a Anglophile medical patient and has remained as an unwilling guest, the subject of an unprecedented extradition legal battle. The New York Times over the weekend dissected editorially the Pinochet case. The newspaper said: "The case of Gen. Augusto Pinochet has left a lasting imprint on international law. England's decision in March that even former heads of state may be tried anywhere for torture committed at home is a landmark, and now Britain's home secretary has ruled that Spain can keep seeking Pinochet's extradition. But the case has also exposed how Chile's military has limited its new democracy."

The Times says: "Chile's civilian government is not in danger of being overthrown. A military coup would win little support among a population that has enjoyed years of economic growth. But less dramatic insubordination is possible, which has persuaded the government to limit its efforts to restore the freedoms Chile enjoyed before Pinochet's rule. Thanks to his case, Chileans are coming to realize how much of their democracy has been lost."

WASHINGTON POST: The chief cause of Malaysia's problems is its longtime ruler

The Washington Post examines the case of another legally beleaguered national leader: former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. The Post finds that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad slipped in an effort to smear Anwar and befouled himself instead. The Post says in an editorial: "The chief cause of Malaysia's problems is its longtime ruler, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 73; and the chief symbol of its trouble is the six-year jail sentence imposed last week on his onetime protege, Anwar Ibrahim, 51. Like many leaders who stay in power too long, Mr. Mahathir has increasingly surrounded himself with yes-men. He has gradually corrupted Malaysia's judiciary. He has sought absolute power at the expense of his country. And when financial collapse threatened his achievements last year, he lashed out at any scapegoats he could find -- Jews, Westerners, Mr. Anwar."

The Post says: "Mr. Anwar, then deputy prime minister, advocated recovery through reform and gradual liberalization. Mr. Mahathir apparently felt threatened by his deputy's popularity and his ideas. He fired him and then, thinking he could disgrace Mr. Anwar, levied a bizarre series of sex- and corruption-related charges against him. In the end, it was Mr. Mahathir who was disgraced. Mr. Anwar was beaten badly while in custody. He was defamed viciously in the controlled press. He was not permitted to mount a serious defense, in court or in the media."

WASHINGTON POST: China will have a profound effect upon global trade

The Post also carries a commentary by William Roth, a member of the U.S. Senate and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Roth pleads for prompt entry of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO). And he criticizes what he calls the failure of President Bill Clinton's administration to seize an opportunity to build commercial relations with China.

Roth writes: "In the past few weeks, China has made a series of bold commitments to U.S. negotiators to open its market on a defined schedule to foreign goods, investment and services in return for membership in the WTO. Those commitments would move China's economy to a rules-based system and end most forms of state control within roughly five years." The senator asks: "What did the United States give away in terms of access to our market for China's pledges of sweeping economic reform?" answers: "Nothing. The only act necessary on our part to take full advantage of China's opened market is passage of legislation making normal trade relations with China permanent," and contends: "Washington has yet to grasp the importance of a deal."

Roth concludes: "We must recognize that China is the world's 10th-largest trading nation, fastest-growing developing economy and most populous nation. Whether in the WTO or not, China will have a profound effect upon global trade."

Western commentary on Kosovo is lighter in volume than it has been in recent weeks, but varies widely in topic.

FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM: True courage can be found where journalists risked to bring information

In the U.S. regional newspaper, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, senior editorial writer J. R. Labbe, considers freedom of speech and press aspects of the war. She wrote Sunday: "Slavko Curuvija died Sunday on the streets of Belgrade, a casualty of war. But the bullets that ended the 51-year-old's life weren't fired by NATO forces, or from a Kalashnikov rifle carried in the hands of a Kosovar rebel. Curuvija was gunned down because he was a journalist who dared speak the truth about Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's repressive government. Journalists in too many places around the globe are warriors in the same battle that took Curuvija's life -- the struggle to provide independent news reports about official corruption, repression and abuse."

Labbe wrote: "Curuvija's name will be among those that appear on the 1999 list compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists to account how press freedom is faring around the world." And she concluded: "It doesn't take courage for an opinion writer to speak out in a country that values a free press right up there with freedom to worship as one pleases. It doesn't take courage when the law of the land guarantees one's right to speak the truth - or even to speak just shades of the truth. True courage can be found in the pages of the CPJ report, where men and women risked harassment, imprisonment, torture and death in the effort to bring unfettered and unadulterated information to the people."

From Paris, the French newspaper Le Monde comments:

LE MONDE: The West will have to explain that their battle is a just one

"Kosovo has been reduced to an emptied ghost state whose inhabitants have been hounded into exile." Le Monde says: "Now a double and painful fact appears: for one thing the war threatens to last for a long time, on the other hand time plays into the hands of Milosevic. One thing is clear: considering the democratically normal swings of public opinion, the West will have more than ever to explain that their battle is a just one."

LA REPUBBLICA: The greatest uncertainty is the fate of Milosevic

La Repubblica, Rome, editorializes: "The greatest uncertainty is the fate of Milosevic when the war between NATO and Yugoslavia ends. At present the Western governments are waiting for a miracle: for a report from Belgrade which will say that Milosevic has resigned, has been deposed or that he has taken flight."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: NATO will have to increase its own commitment

"How long can NATO still wait and for what?" the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asks in an editorial. The newspaper says: "If NATO is really concerned about preventing the extermination of the Kosovo Albanians entirely for which Milosevic only needs a few weeks, it will have to increase its own commitment: in the air and on the ground."