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Western Press Review: Kosovo Dominates, But Other Topics Surface

Prague, 9 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - The search for an end to the war over Kosovo continues to head the list of concerns of Western press commentators. But a number of other topics also surface. First Kosovo...


The Washington Post says in an editorial that "The Atrocities Go On." The Post says: "Early in the Kosovo war, the packing of civilians into railroad cattle cars reminded the world of the kind of crime that many had thought could never be repeated. Now comes another malevolent echo: the incineration of human bodies. Across Kosovo, according to the accounts of intelligence officials and Kosovars forced out of their country, Serbian forces have been burning bodies in an effort to destroy evidence of the massacres they have conducted."

The editorial goes on: "All of this calls into question certain aspects of the peace agreement the U.S. has now accepted." The Post concludes: "The agreement recognizes Yugoslav sovereignty over Kosovo and gives Mr. Milosevic the right to station some hundreds of troops there. Given the criminal activities that continue even now, it is hard to imagine what legitimate role such troops could possibly play beyond turning themselves in for trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague."


But from London, The Guardian says in an editorial: "What is important about the document agreed to in Cologne is that it represents the widest possible international agreement that can be achieved on the Kosovo question." The Guardian says the agreement has put in place "the necessary legal and policy instruments to end the war." It says, also: "Russia's agreement to a far more detailed document than either the earlier G-8 accord or the plan accepted last week in Belgrade should mean that Serbia no longer can expect even tacit Russian support for maneuvers aimed at preventing an early entry into Kosovo by NATO forces."


In the International Herald Tribune, two scholars with the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations say that achieving a principal aim of the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia -- the ultimate return of Kosovar Albanians to their homes -- is not yet in sight. Robert P. DeVecchi and Elizabeth Archangeli, respectively the council's senior fellow for refugees and a council research associate, write: "Given the enormity of the horrors and atrocities that the refugees have suffered, and given the devastation in Kosovo itself, [the refugees'] voluntary return en masse is unrealistic, at least in the near future."

The writers call for immediate winterizing of refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia; and planning for a "generous international resettlement for those Kosovar refugees who are unable or unwilling to go home."

Turning to other subjects....


Writing from Paris in a Sueddeutsche Zeitung news analysis, Rudolph Chimelli discusses deft footwork of Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, since his election two years ago, to place his supporters in strategic posts. Chimelli writes: "Dancing in public is an offense for which there are very severe penalties in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet Khatami in his clinch with his opponents manages to turn and slowly to gain ground: one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back."

The analysis says: "Ordinary Iranians may not be aware of these moves behind the scenes, but Khatami is a past master at the art of pulling the carpet from beneath his conservative opponents without collapsing the entire Iranian state. He knows how and where to place his supporters, softly, without crowing in triumph and without triggering unnecessary resistance. He was a surprise winner two years ago, elected by a landslide majority, and plans to run again in 2001. Khatami is nearing mid-term in his first presidency and he is both stronger and, arguably even more important, more popular than ever."


The New York Times takes aim in an editorial at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S. governing administration of President Bill Clinton for what The Times terms their stinginess in planning debt reduction relief for the world's poorest nations.

The U.S. newspaper says: "The debt reduction program has been too stingy. This month the world's richest countries will decide how much to increase it. The proposals offered fall far short of real relief." The newspaper concludes: "Debt forgiveness must go to those who earn it through sound economic policies and well-targeted social programs, but the administration's proposal would allow only a handful of countries to spend more on basic health and education needs. It is heartless to argue that the United States or the IMF cannot afford to lift a burden now borne by the children of Mali or Zambia."


Another Sueddeutsche Zeitung commentator,Andreas Baenziger, casts a look at Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose party reportedly is leading in meager preliminary returns from Indonesia's Monday parliamentary elections. From Jakarta, Baenziger writes: "Megawati Sukarnoputri has no charisma, no program, no profile and no political talent whatever. Yet she seems sure to be elected head of state in November by Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly, replacing deposed dictator President Suharto and his placeholder B. J. Habibie. Sure, that is, if the popular will as expressed at the polls on Monday is not transformed into its opposite in the meantime."


A Washington Post writer ranges farthest from the focus of most of today's commentaries. David Ignatius writes about a recently published book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzweil, whom Ignatius identifies as a computer genius. Anybody of flesh and blood who is 50 years old today is likely to live to experience computers that can -- equally with humans -- think, feel, enjoy jokes, and get depressed, the Post writer says.

He writes: "The heart of Kurzweil's message is that the technological revolution is just beginning. The processing power of computers is doubling every 12 months [in what Kurzweil calls] the law of accelerating returns." Ignatius says: "The thinking machines of 2029 will claim to be conscious, and it will be hard to dispute that claim. The disembodied machines will become depressed; so they'll want virtual bodies. And the thinking machines will be immortal so long as they remember to make regular backups of themselves."