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Western Press Review: Commentators Turn To Topics Other Than Kosovo


By Don Hill, Anthony Georgieff, and Gabrielle Blocker



Prague, 16 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Many Western press commentators -- eyes strained from weeks of peering on Kosovo -- turn bleary-eyed to other world worry spots -- Korea, Kashmir, and South Africa.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: POSITIVE SIGNS IN SOUTH AFRICA AND INDONESIA

Newspaper editor John Hughes sets the tone in a commentary in the U.S. newspaper Christian Science Monitor, writing: "For several months we've been assaulted by harrowing pictures of man's cruelty to man in Kosovo. Against this background, it might seem naive to suggest that the world is making progress toward civility and democracy. Ethnic divisions remain. Wars sputter, as between India and Pakistan. Tensions simmer, as between North and South Korea."

Hughes says: "Yet there are some positive signs. In South Africa and Indonesia -- two hugely important countries for Africa and Asia respectively -- the tender shoots of democracy are flourishing in lands that many of us feared might be heading for repressive self-destruction."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: PRAISE TO DEPARTING SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT MANDELA

An editorial in Denmark's Berlingske Tidende speaks out in praise of South Africa's departing president, Nelson Mandela, whose greatest virtue, the newspaper says, is his "ability to forgive." The editorial says: "In a world where visionary politicians are not in abundance, Nelson Mandela, the South African president who begins a life as a pensioner today, has been the paragon for millions of people, not only in his native country."

Berlingske Tidende continues: "To the irritation of many abroad, Mandela never revised his relationship with dictators such as (Muamar) Qaddafi and (Fidel) Castro who had helped the ANC in its darkest days. But he never made a compromise with the democratic fundaments he was laying in his own country."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: NEW SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT FACES SEVERE DOMESTIC STRESS

German commentator Hans Brandt also addresses South Africa. Writing from Johannesburg in the Frankfurter Rundschau, Brandt says that new President Thabo Mbeki is taking on international commitments while facing severe domestic stress. The commentator writes: "Mbeki's government faces two central problems that need to be solved quickly -- crime and unemployment. Forty-two per cent of South African blacks are unemployed now and tens of thousands of new job seekers flood into the labor market each year. But in the last five years of Nelson Mandela's government, not only were no new jobs created, half-a-million existing ones disappeared. As for crime, despite the loud cries of rich whites whose cars have been stolen and whose homes have been broken into and ransacked, blacks living in the bitter poverty of big city slums suffer a daily routine of murders and rapes."

Brandt continues: "Mbeki has also committed himself to an 'African Renaissance' in which he and his country lead the long-suffering continent into a bright new future. One big part of that involves putting an end to ongoing wars like the ones in the Congo or Sierra Leone. But if Mbeki spends too much time abroad, the voters are likely to hold that against him -- some are already grumbling about being in the same socio-political mess now that they were in before Mandela took office five years ago. The new president reacts to those sorts of complaints by urging a sternly Protestant work ethic, demanding discipline and hard work. He is likely to be a tough boss for his supporters."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: WAR DRUMS BEATING LOUDLY IN ISLAMABAD

On a growing confrontation between India and Pakistan over the India-administered portion of Kashmir, Willi Germund writes from Islamabad in a Frankfurter Rundschau news analysis that war drums are beating more loudly. He says: "In the conflict between India and Pakistan there are growing signs that war is in the offing. On Tuesday, Pakistan evacuated 300 villages near the Wagah border with India, while there were press reports that both countries had put their armed forces on red alert."

Germund continues: "Indian forces have suffered serious losses in recent days trying to flush the infiltrators out from the mountain ridges. Officially, India admits that over 100 soldiers have died in three weeks of fighting, but Indian soldiers in the region believe the true figure is much higher. Yet India has shown no sign of readiness to yield."

THE WASHINGTON POST: WAR MIGHT NOT IGNITE FROM HIGH SEA SHOOTOUT BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA

A confrontation between North and South Korea also seemed to increase a threat of war this week, but Washington Post Foreign correspondent Kevin Sullivan, on the scene, says in a news analysis that it may not be so. He writes that the "high seas shootout between warships from North and South Korea, which resulted in one sunken North Korean ship, appeared to have eased ... without igniting a larger conflict on this tinderbox peninsula. South Korean military forces remained in a heightened state of alert, but both sides withdrew their ships from the area where [the] volley of cannon fire occurred, a crab-rich area of the Yellow Sea that both countries have claimed since the Korean War ended in 1953."

The reporter says: "Within hours of the incident, Pyongyang (that is, North Korea) had pulled its warships back into its territorial waters without further violence. And it signaled its willingness to continue diplomatic dialogue with South Korea by sending its generals to a previously scheduled meeting shortly after the shooting occurred."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: NORTH KOREA MUST WITHDRAW

Writing from Tokyo in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Gebhard Hielscher says in a commentary: "A long-feared episode in international relations has become reality -- confrontation between North and South Korean warships in disputed waters off the west coast of the Korean peninsula has developed into a regular shooting match."

The writer says: "What will North Korea's reaction to this defeat be? Regardless of its blustering, Pyongyang would be well-advised to dispense with any further escalations and also to withdraw its warships from the disputed waters. The last thing it should do is to provide any new excuses for trying out its strength. The consequences remain uncertain and the stakes very high."

Hielschr continues: "The fray over who has sovereignty over the disputed waters could be solved politically, with the pan-Korean talks set for next month in Beijing providing an ideal opportunity to do this. At present, South Korea insists on discussing only the painstakingly agreed agenda, and this includes no mention of territorial disagreements. This, however, is thoroughly unrealistic.

LE MONDE: ISLAMIC PARTIES SHOW STRENGTH IN INDONESIAN ELECTIONS BUT REMAIN DISUNIFIED

Correspondent Jean-Claude Pomoti comments in the French daily Le Monde that Islamic political parties showed strength in Indonesia's June 7 elections, but remain disunited. He writes: "In a country where 90 percent of the people say they are Muslims, Islamic parties' success was the logical result of the country's political liberalization."

Pomoti continues: "But for the moment, the Islamic parties remain disunited and the most important groups among them have not questioned the state's religious neutrality." He adds that the full impact of the Islamic upsurge probably will be gauged only after the next elections in 2004.

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