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Western Press Review: Comment Still Focuses On Iran, Serbia

By Jan de Weydenthal, Dora Slaba, and Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 14 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The western press today continues to focus its attention on developments in Iran and Serbia, looking for their long-range implications. There are also comments on the modality of financial support for Russia, the implications arising from economic globalization, and the need to reaffirm the validity of universal human rights conventions ...

FINANCIAL TIMES: A reformist Islamic state ruled by the ballot box is worth holding on to

The British newspaper The Financial Times says today in an editorial on the political situation in Iran that the violent demonstrations that have shaken Tehran and other cities during the past few days are "an unusually public expression of deep-seated tensions within post-revolutionary Iran."

The newspaper says that modern Iran is founded on two apparently contradictory propositions: "an Islamic state ruled by clerics and a republic ruled by the people." It says that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is not proceeding with reforms as fast as many, particularly the young, would like, while in the eyes of many hard-liners, he has already gone too far.

The paper concludes: "This week's protests partly signify frustration at the slow process of change; but the unyielding response yesterday was another crackdown by vigilantes. Given the limited choices available now, (President Mohammad) Khatami's unifying idea of a reformist Islamic state ruled by the ballot box is worth holding on to."

WASHINGTON POST: Khatamis success has led to a nearly global reassessment of Iran

The Washington Post says in an analysis by Howard Schneider that the demonstrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities constitute "a movement that could define whether the country continues its progress toward a more open, secular society begun by President Khatami, or experiences a resurgence of power by religious conservatives in the name of keeping order."

The newspaper concludes that in a series of previous conflicts between reformers and conservatives, "the widely popular president not only emerged victorious, but also seemingly able to consolidate his control over larger portions of the government and society. His success has led to a nearly global reassessment of Iran from its status as a rogue nation to a democratizing nation that is capable of reforms."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The more isolated the individuals who rise against Milosevic, the weaker they get

With regard to Serbian politics, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung says in an editorial: "As so frequently happened in the past, the Serbian opposition is again confronted with political arithmetic. The strength of a protest movement does not result from addition, but from the subtraction of its individual fractions. The more isolated are the individuals who rise against (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic, the weaker they get. This poses a dilemma for a westerner, for all support for the Belgrade opposition will likely be reduced to nothing as long as the opposition is unable to form a united bloc."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE: The Serbian Renewal Movement is not likely to renew much

Another German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, says in an editorial that "if Vuk Draskovic is what the Serb opposition offers in its challenge against Milosevic, then the latter has not much to fear. Draskovic has let himself be twisted by Milosevic once before, and this was not particularly difficult as Draskovic is apparently the greater nationalist than Milosevic himself. Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement is not likely to renew much in Serbia."

The paper continues by saying that Milosevic -- whom the paper calls "this Serbian survival artist" -- "obviously is reckoning that the protests leveled against him will die down now as they did just two years ago, and that those who oppose him will quarrel among themselves rather than achieve their aim."

LE MONDE: The Europeans are themselves responsible for their situation

The French daily Le Monde turns its attention in an editorial to the repercussion for European countries of the war in Kosovo. The paper says: "The Europeans were foolishly criticized for merely following the United States, while in truth, the Europeans themselves asked their (American) ally to lead them. In reality, the conflict has demonstrated both the possibility of a close cooperation between various members of the Atlantic alliance and the disproportion of military resources among them that dictated a necessary difference in roles and means.

"The Europeans are themselves responsible for that situation. Until recently, they have not given priority to the 'European defense.' The experience of Kosovo shows the limitations caused by that indifference."

LE MONDE: It is most urgent to put an end to the Russian specificity'

On a different subject, Le Monde expresses concern over the scope and manner of Western financial support for Russia.

The paper asks in an editorial in what manner financial aid should be provided to Russia and says: "Believing that it aids Russia, the International Monetary Fund in reality aids only a few Russians. This, clearly, is not how it ought to be done. But should one actually stop all credits? It is said that Russia is too big and also too powerful -- owing to its possession of nuclear weapons -- to be abandoned. This argument is well known and repeatedly emphasized by Moscow itself, although it perhaps it is not so important as one may think.

"Only last year the ruble had collapsed, but the world economy was only barely affected. One thing is sure: the international community must insist, with great determination, on much greater scrutiny over how any loans are being used. In this regard, it is most urgent to put an end to the Russian specificity.' "

AFTENPOSTEN: Governments must try to eliminate at least drastic inequalities

In Norway, the daily Aftenposten comments in an editorial on the worldwide effects of economic globalization. The paper says: "The United Nations Development Program suggests in its recent report that governments and corporations ought to pay less attention to fast profits and invest in human resources instead."

The paper says: ""Without an improved quality of life of the people, globalization will mean little, if anything. Inequality breeds opposition. To prevent confrontations, including security-related conflicts, the world's governments must try to eliminate at least drastic inequalities."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: There is a growing need to affirm the universal validity of the Geneva human rights conventions

Finally, Yves Sandoz, director for international law and communications for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says in the International Herald Tribune that there is a growing need to affirm the universal validity of the Geneva human rights conventions adopted by the international community 50 years ago.

Sandoz says: "The 50th anniversary next month of the 1949 Geneva conventions offers an opportunity for highlighting the essential values on which these texts are founded: compassion for those in distress, respect for human dignity, solidarity. These values, which were recognized as universal in 1949, are still vital for setting certain limits on armed conflict and for preparing a return to true peace."