Prague, 23 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the West's major dailies today looks at the reasons for a possible Franco-Russian veto of a new UN resolution on Iraq; the Washington, D.C.-area sniper; European Union enlargement; and North Korea's admission that it has secretly pursued a nuclear capability, among other issues.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
"The Washington Post" discusses the potential of a Russian-French veto of any stricter new resolution on Iraq to come out of the UN. France and Russia are two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and they "appear determined to block or fatally weaken any American-led initiative. It is time to call their bluff and ask the Security Council to vote."
In discussing what the daily calls "Franco-Russian obstructionism," it says Paris and Moscow have been taking the side of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on the Security Council since long before the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush came to power. The French and Russian governments "now portray themselves as advocates of Iraqi disarmament and UN inspections; but for much of the 1990s, their explicit aim was to weaken or abolish UN inspections and remove all UN sanctions on Iraq -- positions that helped their businessmen to win lucrative new contracts and their governments to harvest popular acclaim in the Arab world."
The paper says Presidents Jacques Chirac of France and Vladimir Putin of Russia "are still playing the same cynical game, only now they would strike a pose as the only restraint on the aggressiveness of the hegemonistic United States, and as champions of the rule of international law. Never mind that both countries have never hesitated to dispatch their forces for foreign interventions where their interests were threatened."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
The "Wall Street Journal Europe" says France and Russia are attempting to have it both ways regarding sanctions on Iraq, "pretending that they are friends of the U.S., while working behind the scenes to protect Saddam by strangling any weapons inspections in delay and diplomatic excuses."
The paper says "this curious double-game" is explained less by "high moral principle [than] old-fashioned cash. The Russian oil giant Lukoil has contracts with Iraq's current government, and Russia's government has $8 billion in Iraqi debt it wants repaid. The French communications company, Alcatel, and automakers Renault and Peugeot have also done good business in Iraq in recent years. And French oil company TotalFinaElf has exclusive rights to develop the Bin Umar and Manjoon oil fields."
The paper suggests, "Perhaps these companies fear that a post-Saddam Iraq government might not look kindly on those who supported its former oppressors."
THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:
In a contribution to the "International Herald Tribune," David Kaimowitz of the Center for International Forestry Research discusses the new round of negotiations beginning today in New Delhi on the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"Enough countries have ratified the convention's Kyoto Protocol to allow it to go forward," he says. And this conference's conclusions could significantly address not just the overheated climate but also the plight of millions of farmers in the developing world.
The Kyoto protocol's Clean Development Mechanism will enable industries in the industrialized world to offset a portion of their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in climate-related projects in developing countries: "Financing forestry schemes is one way of doing that." Trees absorb carbon dioxide; forests thus "have the potential to help reduce global warming."
As Kaimowitz explains: "A coal-fired plant generating electricity in Europe, for example, would probably find it cheaper [to] pay someone in Asia or South America to plant trees to soak up carbon dioxide on its behalf, instead of just introducing cleaner technologies or improving its energy efficiency."
Kaimowitz says introducing these and similar trading systems "is one of those rare win-win situations that we would be foolish to pass up."
Andreas Middel in "Die Welt" says EU unanimity was short-lived following the positive outcome of the Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty last weekend. Now EU foreign ministers, who ended a two-day meeting in Luxembourg on 22 October, have delayed a decision on the financing of the bloc's enlargement until another two-day summit in Brussels that begins tomorrow.
Middel says the confusion prior to the historic decision to open the door to 10 new Central and Eastern European countries "could not be worse." And he blames this state of affairs on top-ranking EU members. Middel says Romano Prodi, president of the EU Commission, "has ruined" the Stability Pact. Larger countries have failed to put their houses in order and now, although they favor enlargement, they are not willing to pay for it.
It seems Europe has sunk to "petty national interests," and does not want to foot the enlargement bill. And this will hardly impress states like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in their view of the West.
Middel concludes by saying that "enlargement at present is not developing under an auspicious star."
THE WASHINGTON POST:
In a contribution to "The Washington Post," former Federal Prosecutor James Orenstein discusses the Washington, D.C.-area sniper that has already been responsible for 13 attacks, 10 of them fatal.
Orenstein says the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush "is stalling a new law that would 'fingerprint' guns by requiring manufacturers to record the distinct markings each gun leaves on bullets." He says "Such fingerprinting, which lets police trace crime-scene slugs back to the weapon that fired them, would obviously be useful in future investigations like the current hunt for the sniper terrorizing this region." A national database cataloguing all guns before they are sold could help "find a killer through the ballistic evidence he leaves behind."
The sniper has left behind "practically no evidence" except for his bullets. And Orenstein says the gun-fingerprinting technology is reliable: "Studies have shown that even if a gun has been fired thousands of times, or even if a shooter deliberately tries to alter a gun's [barrel], ballistics experts can almost always match a recovered bullet to the gun that fired it." Such fingerprinting could at least help police find useful leads in an investigation. Orenstein says in the wake of the senseless deaths due to this anonymous sniper, the technology is "at least worth a try."
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES:
In "The Los Angeles Times," Robert Scheer says the U.S. has learned that Pakistan has been cooperating with North Korea "to the mutual benefit of their respective nuclear-weapons programs." Thus, he asks with irony, "Why not engineer a regime change in North Korea and Pakistan before getting around to Iraq," where a nuclear weapons arsenal is still a ways off? For he says "it is nuclear weapons, combined with the missile delivery systems possessed by North Korea and Pakistan, that represent the most serious threat of mass destruction."
Regarding North Korea's recent admission that it has a nuclear weapons program, Scheer says the country is really seeking economic transformation, but it "is diplomatically inept and now just blurts out its worst behaviors [in] a desperate bid for aid and recognition."
But this move might just work, he says. "Trade, aid, tourism and pirated Hollywood movies are the proven weapons of mass destruction against totalitarianism, much more effective than sanctions and war, which only enshrine dictators and terrorists as the protectors of a people or nation's virtue." Inviting North Korea and similar regimes to the negotiating table "is still the best weapon" for dealing with "a mouse that roars."
In the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," Wolfgang Koydl analyzes developments in the ongoing debate over the disarmament of Iraq. Firstly, Koydl refers to a "New York Times" statement that it seems America is far more isolated than Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein since the latter seems to be surrounded by friends and allies, whereas Europeans would much prefer the status quo and the Russians wish to continue doing business with Iraq. Could it be that U.S. President George W. Bush, who has recently adopted less truculent rhetoric, realizes this as well?
But Koydl says this view would be incorrect -- the U.S. aim to topple the Iraq regime remains intact. "It is inconceivable," he says, "that the White House would back down from its declared aim."
Koydl says Washington still has time and can make good use of it to create a winning situation: it can gather its Western allies, it can amass troops and also avoid waging war during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. Otherwise, he says, the season is irrelevant: U.S. military capabilities are such that climate is of no concern.
Koydl says it would be premature to draw the conclusion that Bush is softening his policy. We are merely observing the shifting tactics that occur both ahead of and during a war.
An editorial in the British "Guardian" today says the U.S. administration's "final" UN Security Council resolution on Iraq's disarmament is "a dangerous document." The official U.S. objective is disarmament of the Iraqi regime. However, by "including a series of demands unrelated to Iraq's weaponry, [the] resolution deliberately complicates this otherwise clear-cut issue." Iraq's Saddam Hussein is asked "to suspend all support for terrorism, broadly defined. He is told to stop persecuting his own people and to account for several hundred foreign nationals."
The draft resolution also insists on Iraq's compliance with other provisions, which "have little or nothing to do with disarmament. Indeed, they may actually serve to delay or obstruct that process," the "Guardian" says. Fulfilling these provisions is "unenforceable [in] the absence of a full-scale external takeover of the Iraqi government." And the U.S. "certainly knows this."
This raises doubts about U.S. intentions, says the paper. It "is hard not to conclude that the UN [is] being asked to endorse a preemptive war of conquest in which disarmament plays only a part."
To pass the resolution as it stands "would be to approve future U.S. actions that may quickly extend far beyond the primary aim of disarmament." The paper concludes: "Even at this late stage, Britain should publicly join France and Russia in insisting that the U.S. sticks to the point," and focuses only on Iraq's disarmament.
In France's "Liberation," historian and foreign policy analyst Francois Godement says it is now clear that -- even as South Korea pursued its "sunshine policy" of rapprochement with North Korea, and as the previous U.S. administration (under Bill Clinton) engaged in "constructive commitment," and as European governments established diplomatic relations with the regime -- North Korea was all the time developing nuclear weapons.
After North Korea's recent admission that it has been pursuing an atomic arsenal, Godement says some will suggest that a surrounded and weakened North Korea may be merely protecting itself. Or perhaps with the admission, North Korea is actually attempting rapprochement with Washington. Godement notes that, after all, following eight years of official denials, North Korea's admitting to kidnapping Japanese citizens began a normalization of relations with Japan.
Godement says North Korea's admission might have assumed that the United States was preoccupied with Iraq and Al-Qaeda. The official U.S. response has certainly justified this interpretation, as the U.S. administration has only called for a peaceful resolution to the North Korean affair. But Godement says the "true lesson" of North Korea's dramatic announcement is that decisive action "is the only possible policy for preventing states from acquiring weapons of mass destruction." To rely on engagement and similar tools is akin to burying one's head in the sand, he says.
(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)