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Western Press Review: Pinochet, Test Ban Share Spotlight

By Don Hill, Alexis Papasotirou, and Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 7 October 1999 (RFE/RL) -- As the U.S. Senate in Washington discusses whether to take up -- and probably reject -- ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and a colloquy of nations in Vienna urges its approval, a number of Western commentaries also examine the issue.

In the United States, the Boston Globe says in an editorial that the treaty should be a straightforward step toward preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, a goal of both major U.S. political parties. The Globe says this: "But their wise efforts to prevent nations from developing or modernizing nuclear arsenals are today imperiled by partisan squabbling." U.S. failure to ratify the treaty would have negative consequences, the editorial says. In the Boston Globe's words: "If the Senate fails to ratify the test ban, Russia and China would surely do the same, India would not honor its recent pledge to sign the treaty, and Pakistan would follow suit. A calamitous chain reaction could be expected. India would doubtless resume testing, and so would Pakistan. China would come under pressure to modernize its nuclear deterrent. Russia would be tempted to test low-yield warheads to compensate for the weakness of Russia's conventional military. Nothing could be more inimical to America's national security interests."

Writing in The Washington Post, foreign affairs columnist Jim Hoagland says that the issue doesn't turn, as some critics have argued, on good intentions or conflicting technical criteria. As Hoagland puts it: "The central issue here is as old as the American republic and as political as they come. That issue is how involved America needs to be in the world to guarantee its own safety."

The columnist contends that the issue needs deliberate consideration, not a hurried vote by next Tuesday as scheduled. In his words: "As leaders on both sides of the aisle have suggested in recent days, the future is too serious a subject to be determined in the haste triggered by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's abrupt scheduling of a vote for October 12. More time, and a serious effort to fit this vote into a broader picture of America's responsibilities and opportunities abroad, are needed."

Denmark's daily Berlingske Tidende says this: "It does not take a lot of intelligence to understand that the treaty will live or die by virtue of America's will." India, Pakistan, China and Russia, the newspaper says in an editorial, will interpret a U.S. rejection of the treaty as a go-ahead to conduct their own test.

The newspaper puzzles over why opposition party senators, who control the Senate, should resist this treaty. The Republican senators appear to be engaging in partisan politics just to rob President Bill Clinton of a foreign policy triumph, the editorial says. Berlingske Tidende concludes with these words: "There can hardly be a worse reason. The skeptical senators must understand that they should assume their responsibilities as lawmakers in a superpower, and that international agreements such as the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty are the least appropriate for internal squabbles."

From London, the Daily Telegraph says in an editorial that the extradition case against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been, in the Telegraph's words, "a disgrace from beginning to end." Speaking of Britain's Labor Party leaders, the editorial says: "If they had had more courage, they would have ignored the baying of the ideological left and sent the general home to Chile long ago."

Also from London, the Times agrees. It editorializes that, in the newspaper's words, "Loud voices on both Left and Right have drowned out the simple facts that should be at the center of this otherwise complicated saga." The Times says that the case should not be a choice between determining the general's guilt or sending him home. As the editorial puts it: "It is instead a question of which court, in which country, should be considered the competent authority." It was evident long ago, said the Times, that that country is Chile.

The New York Times, in an editorial yesterday, seized on the Pinochet case to comment on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's refusal to declassify secret documents on earlier U.S. activities in Chile. The Times said this: "The CIA is hiding key documents. The material it declassified in June covered Pinochet's use of torture and forced disappearances. But it had virtually nothing on known American ties to those abuses. Nor is there likely to be information on American covert operations in the documents due out this month on the pre-coup period." The editorial concluded with these words: "The Clinton administration rightly has pressed other nations to come clean about shameful events in their past. It should not fail to come clean itself. "

Writing in the Frankfurter Rundschau, commentator Martin Winter observes that the European Parliament narrowly passed a resolution recognizing the strategic importance of Turkey's accession to the EU. He says that a conservative bloc's overwhelmingly negative vote left, in his words, "no doubt that they see no place for Turkey in the EU today or in the future." Winter writes that the parliament called on Turkey to change its policy on the Kurds, to seek a peaceful compromise to the Cyprus issue on the basis of UN resolutions, and to abolish the death penalty. This call comes just as a Turkish appeals court is determining whether to approve a death penalty in the internationally criticized trial of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Greek commentator Yiannis Chrysaphis, writing yesterday in Kathimerini, said this: "Those who, from the beginning, argued that the Ocalan case is a political issue that can be solved only through political means were not mistaken. Chrysaphis wrote that Greece applied a political gauge when, in his words, "it should have alerted justice of Ocalan's arrival in our country." The writer continued with these words: "Turkey did this when it became clear that it needed more time to handle the Ocalan case with ease. And Italy did this too, when -- after Ocalan stayed in that country for two months -- it took the case to justice, to grant him political asylum, and now -- almost a year later -- decides to grant Ocalan political asylum, though he is imprisoned in Turkey." Chrysaphis predicted a political denouement. As he put it: "Italy will succeed on the West's account, in preventing the death penalty from being applied. And Turkey will alter the penalty, and will get something in return from Europe."