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Western Press Review: A Smorgasbord Of Issues

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill



Prague, 26 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary often displays a substantial consensus on any given day, concentrating comment on one or a few issues. Today, commentators find themselves drawn to almost as many issues as there are writers. Here's a sampling:

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: How much longer with the UN and NATO allow the Albanians to dictate conditions?

Among other topics, Sueddeutsche Zeitung columnist Stefan Ulrich critiques KFOR hesitation in dealing with "impudent" Kosovar Albanians, and applauds Austrian police action in arresting a secretly-indicted Serb "war criminal" attending an international meeting.

Ulrich says a standoff in Orahovac in Kosovo between KFOR and a group of ethnic Albanians opposed to deployment of Russian peacekeepers constitutes what he calls "a humiliating spectacle." The Orahovac development sends a signal, he writes, "that impudence will be rewarded." The writer asks: "How much longer with the UN and NATO allow the Albanians to dictate the conditions of the operation to them?"

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Vienna has set an example for all other countries

In a separate commentary, Ulrich says of the arrest of General Momir Talic, chief of the Bosnian Serb general staff: "On Wednesday the world suddenly shrank, at least for war criminals and accessories to genocide." The UN resolution setting up the war crimes tribunal in The Hague requires all member states to give the tribunal prompt assistance in arresting or detaining people, he notes. Ulrich writes: "That's just what Vienna has done -- setting an example for all other countries."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: International prohibition of war on civilians continues to be violated

The International Herald Tribune carries commentaries on civilian targets of military conflicts and natural disaster, both by outside contributors.

In his IHT commentary, Henry Butterfield Ryan, an associate at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, says that despite this month's anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, international prohibition of war on civilians continues to be violated rather than honored. He says armies over the ages have tried to target civilian morale, as, in his words, "NATO has just done in Serbia, hoping that the population will apply pressure on its own authorities." The writer says: "If the long history of warfare demonstrates anything, it is that as long as governments solve problems by arms," civilians will continue to be irresistible targets.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Today is the day to put aside misunderstandings and heal wounds

A second IHT contributor, Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, says he perceives an opportunity for reconciliation in the earthquake that has devastated Turkey this month. It came, he writes, just as Turkey "was stepping toward a new era, economically, politically and socially." The writer sums up the international response as follows: "Longtime rival Greece put its grievances aside and sent rescue teams. The United States mobilized its hospital ships. Israel intervened with the largest of the rescue teams. Lives were saved by European Union countries, including France and Italy. Muslim countries expressed their support. Sympathy and love poured in from all over."

Birand writes that the outpouring raised the spirits of Turkey's people but doesn't do enough. What is needed is, he says, "greatness and leadership" in Europe to integrate Turkey fully into Europe. He writes: "Today is the day to put aside misunderstandings and heal wounds."

AFTENPOSTEN: The right to bear arms has become perverted

The Norwegian daily Aftenposten editorializes on the incomprehensible -- from the European perspective -- American fascination with guns, Many Americans, says the Norwegian newspaper, have come to realize that their constitutional right to bear arms, in the words of the editorial, "has become perverted." The editorial says: "When youngsters begin to shoot at their classmates, when mentally or politically confused persons start using machine guns to promote their agendas, there can hardly be talk of the right to self-defense."

WASHINGTON POST: Holbrooke must employ his famous energy in getting his country to pay its UN dues

The Washington Post adopts an ironic tone in an editorial about the swearing in yesterday of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as U.S. representative to the UN: "America has a UN ambassador. This is a bit of a novelty, since for the past year the country's political machinery has ensured that there was none." Next, the newspaper says. Holbrooke must employ his famous energy in getting his country to pay its UN dues. Otherwise, it will lose its voting rights, on the principle of -- reversing a famous American revolutionary slogan -- "No Representation Without Taxation."

WASHINGTON POST: International aid to China should halt

Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland writes that Chinese President Jiang Zemin "keeps slipping on the banana peels of totalitarian rule." Hoagland writes: "China's once-strong economy is stumbling. Jiang's ambitions for clear progress this year on reuniting Taiwan with the mainland has been openly challenged, (and) Beijing's promise not to interfere in Hong Kong's affairs is being abandoned." In addition, the columnist says, U.S.-China relations are in a shambles and repression of the Falun Gong sect and of dissidents has, in the writer's words, "tainted the atmosphere." The commentator says international aid to China should halt until Jiang Zemin and his regime put at least some of what Hoagland calls this "series of embarrassments" behind them.

DIE WELT: The sudden popularity of sects is an unmistakable danger signal

Concerning the suppression of Falun Gong, Herbert Kremp comments in Die Welt that two groups in China -- one comprising religions, cults and the like and the other being Jiang Zemin's regime and the Communist Party -- are faced off against each other. Kremp writes that, in his phrasing: "educated party leaders recognize that the sudden popularity of sects is an unmistakable danger signal of historic importance." Historically, the Chinese masses are behaving as they have done in the past when great upheavals loomed. That helps explain, Kremp says, why Chinese authorities are taking the Falun Gong so seriously.

NEW YORK TIMES: It's hard to know where politics ends and truth begins

In The New York Times, James Bamford, author of The Puzzle Palace, a book about the U.S. National Security Agency, says in a commentary that security breaches in the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan were the worst on record in America. The authorities at the time investigated, plugged leaks and sent spies and traitors to jail. Whats different now, says the writer, is what he calls "heated congressional rhetoric," "shrill accusations" and a "political circus" atmosphere. Says the commentary: "The (current) investigation into China's suspected theft of top nuclear secrets has become so partisan that it's hard to know where the politics ends and the truth begins."
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