Prague, 29 January 1999 (RFE/RL) - Editorials and comment in the Western press today include discussion of developments in Jordan, in the Serbian province of Kosovo, and in the impeachment trial of U.S. President Bill Clinton. There is also comment on Russia's continuing economic problems and on Euroland's relationship to the rest of the continent.
Editorials today in two U.S. newspapers focus on the significance of the decision this week by Jordan's ailing King Hussein to name his eldest son, Abdullah, as crown prince and heir apparent. In so doing, he in effect demoted his brother, Hassan, who had long been next-in-line for the throne. The king then flew back to the United States as it was announced that he is again fighting cancer.
WASHINGTON POST: Overall King Hussein brought stability
Today's Washington Post said the move on the succession increased "uncertainty in a corner of the Middle East long thought to be uncommonly stably ruled." The paper notes that the 36-year old Abdullah, "a career army officer, heads the special forces, a key unit in the kingdom's key institution of the military..." But, the paper adds, "otherwise in politics and policy he is regarded as untested."
The Post argues that the results of King Hussein's 47-year reign have been mixed. It says, "He has made major errors, among them the opening he gave to Israel to seize the West Bank in 1967 and the support he rendered [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War of 1990-91. But the Post says, "overall, he has served well the purpose -- bringing stability -- for which the British first set up his family to rule." It adds that Jordan is a rarity in the Arab world -- "relatively open, consultative and free of heavy repression." The paper concludes: "Friends of his and Jordan's must wish him good health."
NEW YORK TIMES: Crown Prince Abdullah is untested in a political world
The New York Times today writes that King Hussein, since attaining the throne in 1952, "has played an exceptional role in reducing Middle East tensions. Future stability and peace in the region will rest in no small measure on a smooth succession and on whether Crown Prince Abdullah demonstrates the same commitment to reconciliation as his father."
The paper notes that the King has taken several steps since the 1970s to improve relations with Israel, including signing a peace treaty in 1994 -- making Jordan the second Arab country to do so.
On Crown Prince Abdullah, The Times says that he is "popular in the army and has traveled internationally on his father's behalf." But the Times says he "is untested in a political world in which one misstep could fracture Jordan's internal stability."
The paper says "ruling Jordan would challenge any leader," adding that it "lacks natural resources and is divided between a minority Bedouin population and a restless Palestinian majority."
Attention is also given to Kosovo as the six-nation Contact Group meets today in London to discuss ways of ending violence in the province.
TAGESZEITUNG: Renewed massacres at last prompt international debate on the future of the province
Berlin's Tageszeitung writes that "it took renewed massacres for proposals, which should have been on the agenda at the latest last summer, to at last prompt international debate on the future of the province." The paper cites discussion of stationing "international ground forces and the establishing of a protectorate". It says "much depends on the form in which these proposals are discussed" as well as the view adopted by key countries."
The paper adds, "This includes...Germany. Yet by a long way neither the ... government nor the opposition, nor non-government organizations give the impression that they have fully grasped this."
LIBERATION: There is no guarantee that both sides can be forced to adopt the proposed peace plan
A commentary in France's daily Liberation today calls the international community's new plan for bringing peace to Kosovo "Dayton Junior." Commentator Marc Semo writes that the strategy of using the threat of force to bring Serbs and Kosovar Albanians to the bargaining table is "directly inspired by the methods used to reach the Dayton peace accord for Bosnia in ...1995."
But he says there is no guarantee that both sides can be forced to adopt the proposed peace plan, which would give Kosovo autonomy but not independence during a trial period. Semo says: "In December, the Serbs and the [Kosovo] Albanians rejected just these same ideas for diametrically opposed reasons. The first said they went too far in being a step toward independence for the province. And the [ethnic] Albanians said they did not go far enough toward reaching exactly that goal."
LE MONDE: Zorro has hung up his sword
An editorial in the French daily Le Monde says that Washington has two pressing foreign policy goals but seems as far as ever from reaching them. One is an Iraq without Saddam Hussein and the other is a Serbia without Slobodan Milosevic. The editorial says that in the days of the Reagan or Bush administrations, the U.S. government would have pursued both zealously with what it dubs a "Zorro" policy of saving the world. But today, the editorial continues the White House is troubled by setbacks ranging from the Monica Lewinsky affair to the deadlocked Middle East peace process and has lost its crusader's zeal. Le Monde says: "Zorro has hung up his sword and the White House has no other weapons left than its cruise missiles" to deal with its foreign enemies.
The U.S. Senate's impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton continues to garner comment on both sides of the Atlantic. The case centers on charges that Clinton lied under oath and sought to obstruct an investigation in an attempt to cover up a relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern. The Senate, in votes split on party lines, yesterday rejected Democratic attempts to set a time limit on the trial.
NEW YORK TIMES: Republican Party's Senate members acted unwisely
Today's New York Times titles an editorial "A Republican Blunder". It notes that Clinton's fellow Democrats sought unsuccessfully to set Feb. 12 as a deadline. It then writes that the Republican Party's Senate members "acted unwisely ... by exercising their majority power to impose an open-ended and ill-defined set of procedures for the remainder of the impeachment trial. They are now perilously close to turning the trial into a purely Republican spectacle that poorly serves the nation and demeans the Senate."
The NYT continues "Since the evidence is well known, there need be no further presentations before the Senate hears closing arguments ... and votes on the two articles of impeachment."
The paper concludes: "The longer the Repubicans stretch out the trial, the more they appear to be indulging in a partisan exercise."
WASHINGTON POST: A more constructive approach is to begin working up a fitting censure resolution
The Washington Post today writes that it is clear there will not be the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove Clinton from office. In an editorial, it writes that therefore, "further wrangling over witnesses and the course of the trial seems superfluous."
The Post argues that "the more constructive approach is to begin working up a fitting censure resolution, one tough enough to adequately describe Mr. Clinton's degrading behavior but which neither encroaches on the presidency or says more than the facts will permit."
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: There must not be a separation of personality and office
Today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in an editorial, writes that the Clinton trial is about both the law and morality.
It writes that on the legal question over perjury and obstruction of justice charges, it is clear that the votes do not exist in the Senate to convict and remove Clinton from office.
But the paper says "It is not only a matter of party tactics prompting Republicans to want to question witnesses; it is rooted in the second aspect, the morals of this matter."
The paper continues that "a vast majority of Americans condemn Clinton�s behavior, but they differentiate between the man and the President and are therefore against a dismissal from office." But the paper writes "the fundamentalist inclined right wing of the Republican Party is loath to come to terms with [Clinton]. They view themselves as the protectors of traditional values and have a 'vision' of America in which there must not be a separation of personality and office. This ideological confrontation makes difficult a compromise which could have been achieved long ago regarding the legal and procedural questions."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Nothing useful and feasible should be left undone in Russia
In a commentary carried by today's International Herald Tribune, Flora Lewis writes that "today's Russia remains a dilemma," adding that "it is a crucial uncertainty, perhaps the most important in determining how world affairs are going to evolve in coming years."
She continues "The countries of Eastern Europe are moving... more or less successfully, through their transition ... to market-based liberal democracies." She adds "Nothing is that clear in Russia".
Lewis says, "the [Russian] economy is awful.... An elaborate but shadowy game is going on to prepare for a presidential election....[and] the federal government seems to teeter between insolvency ... and the temptation of hyperinflation to produce enough rubles to go around."
Lewis continues: "the [Russian] people are suffering and bewildered. The leaders who have emerged so far have been unable to organize, inspire, produce." She writes that outsiders cannot fix all of Russia's problems. But she concludes, "Russia's future will affect all of us so much that nothing useful and feasible should be left undone."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The risks of new barriers are quite real
Another commentary appears in today's IHT by the Council of Europe's Secretary General Daniel Tarschys. He writes that the launch this month of the euro as a common currency among 11 EU member states "is a magnificent achievement." But he adds "the European project is much greater: turning an old battlefield of hostile armies ...into a decent and civilized place, a common European home".
He writes "recent developments in Eastern Europe serve as a painful reminder about the need for legal, institutional, educational and cultural perspectives in the transitional process."
Tarschys warns of the emergence of new barriers between the east and west of Europe. He writes that "the risks of new barriers are quite real and may be aggravated if the process of EU enlargement fails to take the wider European context into account."
Tarschys concludes "the launching of the common currency is worth all the celebration that it has attracted, but it must not limit our horizons. Europe is more than Euroland."