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Western Press Review: Students Challenge Iran's Clerics

Prague, 12 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today turns its attention to student demonstrations in Iran and their potential impact on politics there. It also continues to look at Yugoslavia, focusing this time on problems linked to the tasks of reconstruction and aid. Finally, there are comments on the future of new European Commission, and the need to prepare an international treaty to fight dangers to health posed by tobacco.

Several major newspapers regard the student demonstrations in Tehran as presenting a challenge to the political system in Iran.

LIBERATION: Students showed themselves hostile to the supreme leader

The Paris daily Liberation says today in a commentary that "while the demonstrations failed to bring together the country's entire student body (it numbers ca. 1,300,000), they demonstrated the determination of certain of their participants. For the first time, the students yesterday publicly demanded that the supreme guide of the regime (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) "explain" the actions of the security forces, which he controls. Moreover, the students showed themselves hostile to the supreme leader, accusing him of supporting the extremists who regularly attack liberals: 'the Ansar-e-Hezbollah commit crimes, while saying that they follow the (supreme) leader,' slogans carried by the students said."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Refusal of the power establishment to reform has caused current collision

The Munich, Germany, newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung says in an editorial that "the closure of a liberal newspaper and a new repressive press law are but the immediate causes of the current collision in Tehran. Its deeper reason is the rigid refusal of the clerical-conservative power establishment to accept the population's longing for reforms."

LIBERATION: Radical Islam lacks any future plans

The Paris daily Liberation says in an editorial that the student demonstrations suggest that radical Islam faces an impasse. The paper says "a large part of radical Islam finds itself in an impasse. Following the [Iranian revolution], radical Islam has not experienced any clear success, with the exception of its Afghan version. [But] the Taliban is so outrageous that it even shocked the imams of Tehran. The masters of Kabul and their regressive policy cannot, in any case, provide a model or an inspiration to important movements anywhere in the Muslim world. In fact, radical Islam finds itself without any future plans."

With regard to the situation in Yugoslavia, the attention of western comment focuses on problems in rebuilding the devastated region.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Commitment to the people of Southeast Europe must be for a long haul

Economists Christian Portman and Rory O'Sullivan write in The International Herald Tribune that "helping revive this region will require more than rhetoric. It will take long-term economic and political support on the part of the various finance ministers, the World Bank and other international development banks, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the other groups.... Starting this week in Brussels, the international community will band together in a powerful coalition of partnerships to start the process of transforming Southeastern Europe."

The two writers conclude: "The coalition will need to keep two thoughts uppermost: the best foundation for peace is economic hope, and the commitment to the people of Southeast Europe must be for a long haul."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Serbs need to do more to overthrow Mr. Milosevic

The British daily Financial Times says in an editorial that the international economic help cannot be regarded as the solution to all problems, particularly in Serbia, where the presence of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic prevents any comprehensive program of reconstruction.

The Financial Times says: "For moral reasons too, Serbs need to do more to overthrow Mr. Milosevic and embrace liberal democracy. While Mr. Milosevic and his cronies were chiefly responsible for starting the Kosovo war, they provoked little protest from the average Serb. Serbs must now demonstrate that they see this was terribly wrong."

The Western press also comments on the formation of the new European Commission, the executive of the European Union.

LE MONDE: EU commission attracts most of the criticism

The French newspaper Le Monde says in an editorial: "Mr. [Romano] Prodi [the new president of the commission] is aware that the commission, which represent the European Union in its daily operations, has a problem of legitimacy. For whatever reason, it is the commission which attracts most of the criticism so often addressed to the union, even while it is a body which is subjected to frequent controls. The crisis which brought down the previous commission revealed certain objectionable practices of certain commissioners. But, above all, it demonstrated the public dissatisfaction with the way the union operates...."

The paper continues: "Now the last word belongs to the European parliament. A body more powerful than once described or even imagined, the parliament is to give in September its approval to the Prodi team. The parliamentarians, who are to approve each member of the commission separately, will look first of all for any sign of arrogance as well as for each candidate's ability to work with the parliament. In short, they will look for the commissioners' capacity to take part in Europe's democratic government."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Cigarettes do not deserve routine free trade protection

Finally, the press comments on dangers linked to tobacco. The International Herald Tribune says in an editorial: "By the year 2020, tobacco is expected to kill more people than any single disease, according to a recent study by public health it is appropriate that the world's nations are mobilizing in an unprecedented way to fight this unique threat to the public health."

The paper continues: "The World Health Organization, for the first time in its history, is promoting a treaty, specifically a treaty to govern tobacco and the tobacco industry.... A treaty could set standards for advertising, labeling, control of sale to children and similar issues. Those standards, in turn, could give governments needed ammunition against the lobbying of multinational tobacco companies."

The paper concludes: "...cigarettes do not deserve routine free trade protection but rather should be regulated as the addictive and lethal products they are."