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Western Press Review: From International Meetings To Middle East Problems

  • Don Hill

Prague, 9 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Commentators in RFE/RL's survey today of the Western press discuss world ills -- racism, hunger, violent demonstrations, and failed policies.


The "Financial Times" says in an editorial that a proposal by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to shift the venue of international meetings to smaller, less accessible locations demonstrates not prudence but timidity.

The newspaper says: "Attempting to shift to other countries important international meetings, whether November's World Food Summit in Rome or next month's NATO meeting in Naples, points to a failure of nerve."

The editorial acknowledges that Italy's reputation suffered from the government's handling of anti-globalization protestors at last month's G-7 plus Russia summit. But, it says, Berlusconi should seek out opportunities to repair the damage, not run from it.

The "Financial Times" says: "The anarchists and thugs among the peaceful demonstrators cannot be allowed to dictate to democratically elected governments or to deny law-abiding protesters the right to have their say. The response to the threat is smart policing and more cooperation between governments to track their activities."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" editorializes today that "the United States, the EU, and other Gulf War allies still are continuing blindly a muddled policy toward Iraq." The editorial says that Tuesday's (7 August) U.S. air assault on targets near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was just another -- "ho-hum" -- routine attack. "And that," it says, "is the problem."

The newspaper says that Western policy, to the extent there is a policy, has failed. Iraq's Saddam Hussein remains strong at home, Iraq's international oil sales are rising, and the Gulf War alliance is fraying. Saddam continues to bluster, and to seek a propaganda victory by shooting down a U.S. aircraft and killing or capturing its pilot. The editorial says that inevitably an international crisis will develop and the United States will need allied and public support.

The editorial concludes: "The time to earn that support is now, when pilots are safe and there is time to develop a coordinated policy to contain Iraq, aid Iraqi opposition groups, and replace Saddam. Now more than ever, Europe and the United States need to hear why the Iraqi dictator is dangerous and how civilized nations can plan to stop him."


Also today, "The Wall Street Journal Europe" publishes a commentary by Michael Rubin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy saying that the key to any Iraq policy should be indicting Saddam as an international criminal. Rubin writes: "Tuesday's U.S.-British air strikes against Iraq once again raise the question of why much of the international community continues to treat Saddam Hussein with kid gloves."

The writer says that Saddam is the author of far worse human rights abuses than those of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, now awaiting trial in The Hague. Rubin writes: "A war crimes tribunal will not materialize overnight. That's not what happened with Milosevic, a man who neither used chemical weapons nor pursued a nuclear program [as Saddam has done]. The UN Security Council first established commissions of experts in order to organize and evaluate evidence. Surely, permanent Security Council members France and Russia, and temporary member Norway, should have no problem with allowing the secretary-general to appoint a commission of experts to look into charges against Saddam Hussein."


The "International Herald Tribune" publishes a commentary by Mary Robinson, UN high commissioner for human rights. Robinson says that a World Conference Against Racism scheduled to convene at the end of this month in Durban, South Africa, will search for causes of, and remedies for, behavior that has inflicted, in her phrase, "extraordinary pain" in the world.

Robinson writes: "This will be the first global anti-racism conference of the post-apartheid era. It has a very broad remit. It will address every manifestation of racism and discrimination in the modern world. It will confront traditional forms of racism and the plight of groups at particular risk: indigenous peoples, ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities." Mary Robinson is secretary-general of the racism conference.


"The New York Times" says in an editorial that the current vociferous debate about experimental cloning of human beings contains two dangers. One is that out-of-control scientists will press ahead with a technology that is insufficiently understood and unpredictably risky. The other is that the U.S. Congress will overreact in its response.

The newspaper says: "The assertions this week by three separate scientists that they soon would try to clone a human embryo and implant it in a woman are appalling. This is still a highly experimental technology that carries enormous and unpredictable risk for the well-being of any human that might result from this procedure."

The editorial says: "The renegade scientists who are so bent on cloning contend they are trying to help infertile couples. That is a laudable goal that does not justify scientific grandstanding or the subjecting of desperate couples to inappropriate risks. At this point, the potential dangers of cloning are simply too great to warrant experimentation in humans. The sad result of this latest furor over cloning is that it may inflame Congress to overreact."


The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" editorializes today that talk is being overwhelmed by force in Macedonia. Under the headline "Words Without Effect," the newspaper says, "While Macedonians and representatives of the ethnic Albanians are conversing eye to eye about an agreement to settle the disputes in a war-torn country, elsewhere the language of force is the only one that counts."


An editorial in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" says that hopes for an outbreak of common sense in Macedonia seem to reflect a kind of diplomatic innocence, especially regarding voluntary disarmament by ethnic Albanian insurgents. The editorial says, "This naive lapse indicates Western mentality." The newspaper says that the West should distinguish the earlier just war of the Kosovar Albanians from assault by the Macedonian Albanians on a democratically elected government. It says, "A peaceful settlement which blurs this fact can hardly be lasting."


As the Mideast conflict shows no sign of abating, several commentaries looked at the position of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. "The Irish Times" commentator David Horovitz writes that Arafat is under overwhelming pressure to back away from any possible dtente with Israel. A second piece -- an editorial in "The New York Times" editorial republished today in the "International Herald Tribune" -- says, "Israelis are understandably frustrated with Yasser Arafat."

Horovitz says that Arafat seems to be leaning toward allowing, "a deepening of the already close ties between some of his own Fatah loyalists and the Islamists, who now often work in partnership in planning and executing attacks."

Horovitz says this would shut off any chance of a return to the peace process. He writes: "The dangers for Mr. Arafat in following this line, however, are acute -- he may find himself forced back into exile, or worse, should Mr. Sharon ultimately decide to bow to right-wing pressure and directly confront the Palestinian Authority. Or he might find that the Islamists have become so popular among his public as to eclipse him."


"The New York Times" editorial says: "After spurning a politically courageous Israeli peace offer last summer, [Arafat] has broken his pledge of nonviolence and for the past 10 months has repeatedly endorsed an armed Palestinian uprising."

It says: "Mr. Arafat's miscalculations are manifest. His failure to respond more imaginatively to Israeli peace proposals at Camp David last summer was an error of historic proportions. His renewed embrace of violence has been inexcusable and has damaged prospects for future diplomatic advances. But for all that, he remains the one Palestinian leader capable of reining in the violence and leading his people back to the bargaining table. Shunning Mr. Arafat might feel satisfying. But it would do Israel more harm than good."

Reestablishing sufficient calm for renewed negotiations, "The New York Times" editorial says, "will require more responsible behavior by Mr. Arafat and a renewed Israeli willingness to recognize that for now, he is the only realistic Palestinian negotiating partner."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this Press Review.)