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Western Press Review: U.S. Economy, Turkish Justice

Prague, 1 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western Press focuses on a range of topics, with the U.S. economy and Turkish justice attracting particular attention.

SUEDEUTSCH ZEITUNG: When a budget deficit turns into a surplus it is not at all praiseworthy

In the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, editorial director Josef Joffe says that U.S. thrift could damage European prosperity. He writes: "If a family gets out of the red into the black, that is something worthy of praise and celebration. But different standards apply to nations. When the U.S. economy, the world's largest, turns a budget deficit into a surplus -- of $100 billion this year -- it is not at all praiseworthy. The $5.6 million-million of total [U.S.] public debt already are starting to melt away. In ten years' time they may be all gone. Because the United States would no longer be borrowing thousands of millions from the market, U.S. interest rates and hence the value of the dollar would fall."

Joffe concludes: "All we have to do is to persuade the Yanks to raise their public spending so that their economy and tax revenues don't grow so fast. Then the [U.S. government] will have to live on borrowed bucks again and the world will be saved."

NEW YORK TIMES: The dollar will eventually come under heavy pressure

The New York Times also looks at the prospects for the dollar. Its comment follows a pronouncement by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board that a small increase in interest rates will be enough to keep inflation in check.

The NYT says in an editorial: "William McChesney Martin Jr., the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board during the great economic expansion of the 1950s and 1960s, once said that the role of the Fed was 'to take away the punch bowl just when the party gets going.' Alan Greenspan, the current Fed chairman, served notice [yesterday] that he does not want to spoil the fun."

The New York Times says: "If the American economy continues to grow at the recent rate of above 4 percent, there are substantial risks that inflation will accelerate and that, with the record trade deficit continuing to expand, the dollar will eventually come under heavy pressure. Those risks will be intensified if the White House and Congress choose to ease fiscal policy now, either through large new spending programs or by a big tax decrease. Should that happen, Greenspan may have no choice but to push interest rates up again later this year."

GUARDIAN: It is time someone else took the strain

From London, The Guardian newspaper writes approvingly of Greenspan's decision and goes on to warn that Europe should act wisely also. The Guardian editorializes: "The Federal Reserve under the astute guidance of Alan Greenspan, its widely admired chairman, was right to raise interest rates yesterday to cool down the economy before it implodes." The Guardian says: "Whatever the outcome of that process, the next course for Europe is to expand demand quickly in order to mitigate the effects of a sharp U.S. slowdown. The U.S. economy has been the locomotive of world growth for too long. It is time someone else took the strain. And in view of the grave risks to the U.S. economy, the sooner the better."

EL PAIS: Ankara has the historic opportunity to show its magnanimity

Spain's El Pais says that for Turkey to carry out the execution of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, as ordered in a court sentence earlier this week, would be a mistake. It says: "Ocalan is the undoubted leader of an organization which is associated with the practices of murder, terror and repression. [But] the Turks, since the establishment of the Republic in 1923, have abused the rights of the Kurdish minority." The newspaper says: "It would be a grave mistake for Ankara, which has not executed anyone since 1984, to carry out Ocalans execution. The abuse of human rights in Turkey is preventing the countrys entry into the EU. Now Ankara has the historic opportunity to show its magnanimity and to establish a basis for peace with the Kurds."

WASHINGTON POST: The trial can yet launch a search for conciliation

The Washington Post also says that the Turks would err in executing Ocalan. In an editorial, the paper proposes an alternative. It says that if the Turks kill Ocalan, "They may bring on a new wave of war and further distance themselves from Europe." The Post goes on: "But if Turkey accepts his courtroom bid to reinvent himself as a democratic politician ready to 'serve the Turkish state,' then an opportunity to tame militant Kurdish nationalism comes into view."

The newspaper concludes: "The first requirement is to avoid violence directed either by or at the minority of Kurdish Turks who belong to Mr. Ocalan's party. Next must come a dialogue -- the United States supports it -- between the two groups of Turks. The trial can yet launch a search for the conciliation that has so far eluded Kurds and non-Kurds alike."

Other papers today look at the beginning of the Finnish presidency of the European Union and at the state of democracy in Central Asia.

TIMES: Finland is placed in the right role, at the right time

The Times, London, discusses the meaning of tiny Finland's fledgling leadership of the European Union. The Times' editorial says: "Finland starts its six-month presidency of the European Union today with one very considerable asset, and what might appear to be two formidable handicaps. The asset is that President Martti Ahtisaari's robust handling of [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic, coupled with his skill in dealing with Moscow, revealed this small country of five million to be a sophisticated player in European politics. The handicaps, not of Finland's making, are that until September, the EU is doomed to endure the continuation in place of a disgraced European Commission, while there will also be a post-election vacuum at the European Parliament. Germany will not be holding Finland's hand either, because the Amsterdam treaty has abolished the troika of past, present and future presidencies that used, at least in theory, to ensure continuity."

The editorial says: "Finland, with its long border with Russia, has always looked east as well as south. Its neutrality, dictated by history and geography, coincides with a genuine internationalism. Contrary to its fears, it is placed in the right role, at the right time."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Rule by iron fist is winning out

Correspondent Jeanne Whalen, writing in a news analysis in The Financial Times, London, looks at democracy -- or the lack thereof -- in Central Asia and concludes that it is a luxury which leaders there feel forced to forego. She writes: "Central Asia's leaders may speak of democracy and reform, but a presidential summit in Kyrgyzstan last week revealed an increasing number of potential presidents for life." She goes on: "As these former Soviet republics struggle for independence and stability, rule by iron fist is winning out over democratic ideals." Whalen says: "Until their economies improve, financial crisis will give these leaders an excellent excuse to tighten the reins on their publics."