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Western Press Review: The 'Palestinization' Of The Chechen Conflict, Protecting The North and Baltic Seas

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 27 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Among the topics discussed in the major Western media outlets today are this week's meeting between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and U.S. President George W. Bush, ongoing unrest and the shape of resistance in Iraq, the "Palestinization" of the Chechen conflict, and the environmental conference in Bremen, Germany, where environment ministers from nations sharing the North and Baltic seas are trying to find ways to enhance their cooperation.


In her monthly column for "The Washington Post," Russian journalist Masha Lipman says the Chechen conflict is in danger of undergoing a "Palestinization." The war has "gradually evolved into guerrilla action.... A vicious circle of guerrilla attacks followed by punitive action has resulted in increased violence and dehumanization of both warring sides." Suicide attacks are "a new, highly alarming tactic" now being used by the Chechen resistance.

The Kremlin has recently decided to take "a series of largely cosmetic steps intended to create the appearance of a peace process." The results of a March referendum -- in which 95 percent of a reported 89.5 percent turnout voted for Chechnya to remain part of Russia -- are widely believed to have been rigged. Another Moscow initiative offered Chechen fighters amnesty if they would disarm. But Lipman says this offer had few takers, as Moscow offered no guarantees of safety. Of the 500 fighters who laid down their arms in a similar amnesty in 1999, 450 were later arrested, "disappeared," or killed.

Lipman says, "The roster of those who had turned in their arms was likely used as a 'wanted' list."

She says a real political solution would require rebuilding Chechnya's infrastructure and prosecuting soldiers guilty of "unlawful violence and corruption." Instead, Moscow pursues a "hypocritical and cynical policy of keeping the bloody and explosive status quo, under the guise of a political process."


"The Boston Globe" in an editorial reprinted in today's "International Herald Tribune" discusses this week's meetings between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and U.S. President George W. Bush. Both leaders stand to "benefit enormously" from their cooperation, says the editorial.

But both sides could offer the other better collaboration, the paper says. While Pakistan's government has cooperated admirably with U.S. intelligence on rounding up Al-Qaeda fugitives in Pakistan, Afghanistan is a different story. Afghans have accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting remaining members of the Taliban and other militant Islamist groups. And for its part, Washington has done little to convince Islamabad that it "has recovered from attention deficit disorder" and will support Pakistan on the long road ahead.

The paper says Musharraf should "use his powers as president and army chief to end to all ISI support for regrouping Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan. If Bush did not make such a demand in his long private talk with Musharraf at Camp David, he should do so soon. By the same token, Musharraf is entitled to ask for assurance that the Americans will not walk away from Pakistan, as they did after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan."


A commentary in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" looks at Russia's attitude toward environmental issues in light of a two-day conference in Bremen, Germany, where the environment ministers of nations sharing the North and Baltic seas have begun a joint session to tackle over-fishing and issues such as oil-tanker spills.

Russia vetoed the adoption of a resolution declaring the North Sea "a particularly sensitive sea" because, the commentary says, "old and inadequate tankers manned by badly trained crews transport a large amount of oil through the North Sea and this quantity of oil is likely to increase, because this industry is experiencing a boom in Russia."

Russia's veto is a "heavy blow," says the paper, because the Bremen conference is really only "a symbol of goodwill." More important, the commentary says, would be if the International Maritime Organization declared the sea to be an especially sensitive region.


According to a report cited in the "International Herald Tribune," daily violence against Anglo-American forces in Iraq continues to escalate. "Officials continued to play down the violence, saying there was no nationally coordinated insurgency," the paper says. "But shattered glass, blood stains and mangled vehicles may speak to a different reality."

Reports of new attacks on U.S. troops appear "almost hourly," the paper says. They were "too frequent for military press officers to keep up with," most coming from witnesses present at the scene of the attacks.


Both France's "Liberation" and "The Wall Street Journal Europe" today are reporting that new attacks are now targeting Iraqis working with coalition forces, particularly in the energy sector. Writing in the "The Wall Street Journal Europe," Alexei Barrionuevo cites coalition officials as suggesting such attacks are part of an attempt to keep the energy off and encourage chaos throughout the country.

And it seems to be working. "Tensions are boiling over in Baghdad as the power woes continue," Barrionuevo says.


Writing in the French daily "Le Monde," Patrick Jarreau asks, "How long and at what price is the United States now engaged in Iraq?"

He says this looming question reflects the concerns that are now on the rise in Washington. He notes that Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called on U.S. President George W. Bush to make clear to the American people what they should realistically expect in terms of U.S. engagement in Iraq. According to Biden, there persists a "gigantic" gap between the U.S. government's forecasts and reality.

As attacks continue against Anglo-American forces, Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, "refuses to speak of war," says Jarreau. Bremer instead relies on the phrase "pockets of violence (resistance)" to describe the almost daily attacks on coalition forces.

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