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Western Press Review: Balkan Reconstruction, Reform In Iran

Prague, 21 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Balkan reconstruction and reformist movements in Iran are predominant editorial topics in today's Western press.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The international community has jeopardized long-term peace in the Balkans

In today's Wall Street Journal Europe, Susan Blaustein -- a senior consultant with the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C. -- says that "dithering and squabbling" by the international community has jeopardized long-term peace in the Balkans. She catalogues a list of shortcomings -- from NATO's failure to come through with an adequate peacekeeping force to a non-existent leadership in Kosovo.

She writes: "Despite NATO's promise that its international security force for Kosovo, dubbed KFOR, would protect civilians of all ethnic groups, it has mobilized only slightly more than half the total number of designated peacekeepers. ... With no operational government, combined with hundreds of thousands of returning Albanians and departing Serbs, Kosovo is a mess. Indeed, there's no functioning sewage, water, judicial, health, or educational systems in place."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: A KLA regime is hardly a long-term answer

An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal says that peace in Kosovo hinges on whether Western leaders will assert some authority in the region or continue the kind of "procrastination that allowed the Balkans to go spinning out of control in the first place." The editorial warns that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has been quick to take advantage of the leadership vacuum in Kosovo:

"NATO has declared that it wants to preserve what little ethnic heterogeneity exists in Kosovo, but unless it is willing to impose its will on the ground, the KLA commanders are likely to impose theirs. That may suit the Albanians for the moment; but a guerrilla army is not a government and questions of legitimacy, and the efficient management of governing functions, will soon rankle. A KLA regime is hardly a long-term answer to Kosovo's problems and needs."

GUARDIAN: Poor nations like Bulgaria and Romania are suffering

The British newspaper The Guardian says that while the international community "squabbles over the spoils," poor Balkan nations like Bulgaria and Romania, who supported NATO's campaign in Yugoslavia, are suffering. It says those countries paid a heavy price in supporting the war. The financial losses have been exacerbated by the halt on Danube navigation after NATO's bombing of key bridges in Yugoslavia.

"For Romania and Bulgaria, the Danube is a trade lifeline," The Guardian writes. "How much attention that problem is getting can be gauged by [British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's] enigmatic response to questioning recently before the foreign affairs committee. There was, he said, 'a view' that the Danube should be reopened. ... So bad luck, it seems, to exporters of Romania and Bulgaria, the owners and operators of harbors up and down the river, the merchant seamen stuck beyond the breach and all the people who depend on them, but I'm sure you all understand that it's a question of priorities. We have to get the big contracts sorted out first."

WASHINGTON POST: It is hard to understand why an effort to overthrow Milosevic needs to be covert

In The Washington Post, Bruce D. Berkowitz -- a former analyst with the CIA -- writes that U.S. covert actions against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic are neither secret or smart. "It is hard to understand why an effort to overthrow Milosevic needs to be covert," Berkowitz writes. "An international tribunal has indicted Milosevic as a war criminal. By now the entire world is aware that the United States and its NATO allies would like to see him gone."

But Berkowitz says such covert action by the U.S. in Serbia could backfire. He writes that "occupying the moral high ground has been the cornerstone of the U.S. strategy in maintaining a united NATO. Milosevic is already using this covert action against his opponents, accusing them of being tools of the CIA. We may lose support in the United Nations. We could further antagonize Russia and provide a powerful issue for communists and nationalists in Russia's upcoming elections ... "

Berkowitz says that the Clinton administration may be pursuing covert action in Serbia for the worst possible reason: Because it is unwilling to plead its case to the American public for measures that may be costly or risky. "Or perhaps," Berkowitz writes, "our political leaders simply lack the experience to know how and when covert action can be used effectively."

Several press commentaries say the relative peace instilled in Iran after last week's crackdown on student protests will not hold for long.

LE FIGARO: Appearances are deceiving

In the French daily Le Figaro, Tehran correspondent Serge Michel writes that there is a false calm in Iran. He quotes prominent dissident Abdel Karim Soroush as saying: "Appearances are deceiving. After a week of muting and repression, the conflict is growing quietly, but it will one day blow up."

BOSTON GLOBE: The system is rife with statism

An editorial in the U.S. newspaper The Boston Globe says that while tear gas no longer floats over Tehran's streets, the underlying realities that fueled the student protests still exist.

It writes: "Unemployment is more than 30 percent in Iran -- a country rich not only in oil but in educated and skilled people, many of whom have either fled the dictatorship or languish unproductively under its boot. Each year, 840,000 people enter the labor market, and the regime cannot provide jobs for them. ...

"Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who does have considerable control over the regime's economic policy, is not able to satisfy the needs of Iran's people. The system is rife with statism and the inefficiencies of a kleptocracy. Expressing the attitude of the clerical rulers toward this chronic failure, the Ayatollah Khomeini famously said economics is for donkeys."