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Western Press Review: U.S., Korea, Elections

Prague, 11 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary continues to roam over varied issues.

NEW YORK TIMES: The Pentagon should admit its errors

The New York Times today contends that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA has properly punished those of its staff who were responsible for the mistake that led to last year's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. But, says the newspaper in an editorial, the U.S. armed forces have not.

In the words of the New York Times: "The CIA long ago gave up a central role in selecting bombing targets for the Pentagon. [CIA Director George] Tenet said last week that the agency lacked formal procedures for preparing and forwarding target nomination packages to the Pentagon. Normal vetting procedures by the Pentagon and NATO were not applied."

The paper notes that China refuses to believe that the United States may merely have made a terrible mistake in picking the target. In the paper's words: "Mr. Tenet has had the courage to admit his agency's errors and to hold individuals accountable. The Pentagon should do the same."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Possibly North Korea is finally prepared to give up its long isolation from the world

Britain's Financial Times carries a commentary by John Burton that yesterday's announcement of a summit between leaders of North and South Korea may mean that North Korea finally is prepared to give up its long isolation from the world. Burton says a successful summit would be a triumph for South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, who needs to keep his allies in parliamentary elections set for Thursday. But, the writer says in effect, don't count your rapprochement before it's etched on paper.

Burton writes: "Any deals concluded with [North Korea's] Great Leader face being criticized by the South's conservatives as a North Korean quid pro quo for helping the president in the general election." On an up-note, the writer says this: "This time, events may be different as pressure grows on North Korea to seek help from the outside world."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: Simitis has been able to achieve remarkably much

An editorial in Denmark's Berlingske Tidende and two commentators in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung examine recent elections. Berlingske Tidende praises Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, victor in Sunday's parliamentary elections. As the editorial puts it: "In the course of just four years, [Simitis] has been able to achieve remarkably much. In addition to being able to reform the economy in such a way as to make Greece a likely candidate for membership of the European Monetary Union -- which is indeed a conquest -- Simitis has rid government party Pasok of its nationalism and has helped dispel the tensions with arch-enemy Turkey." The newspaper also hails the EU for its support of the Simitis government.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The new center parties will be able to gain a trickle of hope from the Greek lesson

In the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Wolfgang Koydl looks at the Greek elections differently, focusing on Simitis's narrow margin of victory. Writing from Athens, Koydl says this: "If that is a winner, what does a loser look like?" But still, he says, it was a victory. In Koydl's words: "Unemployment, health, education, crime, foreigners -- these are the same issues occupying the attention of voters in Germany, France and Britain. These are the topics that will decide whether the representatives of the new center in those countries will be re-elected."

He continues: "For the time being, they will be able to gain a trickle of hope from the Greek lesson: Their colleague Simitis and his Pasok comrades emerged victorious, even if battered, from the elections. Their experiences will help the proponents of the new politics towards majorities in Greece and elsewhere."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: These elections just prove that progress in Bosnia is both slow and uneven

Also in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Peter Muench finds negatives and positives in Bosnia's local elections this weekend. Muench says there's bad news in a nationalistic trend. In his words: "Just five years after the Dayton accord that put an end to fighting, three nationalist parties took the field in the Balkan country's local elections [and] two of them swept their respective elections [among Croats and Serbs], ignoring Western appeals to back more moderate parties and politicians."

But Muench says also: "The only sign of hope this election offers are the victories of the Social Democrats in the area where the aging Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action had influence." As Muench puts it, "These elections just prove that progress in Bosnia is both slow and uneven."

GUARDIAN: 40 years of communism deprived the Czechs of law

Writing in The Guardian, London, British commentator Hugo Young says: "At last I've found a country that feels less European than my own." That country, he said, is the Czech Republic. As Young puts it, "At the furthest reach from London, in the European scheme of things, is the city of Prague. It's not far by geography, but historically, culturally and spiritually is as remote as anywhere so physically close could be. One place, [London], belongs to modern Europe; the other [Prague], does not."

Young writes that the Czech Republic is looking to Europe, but not so much for a political example of democracy as for an economic and legal example of the rule of law. In the writer's words: "What Czechs envy above all is the EU's legal order. This is the benefit they see. Law, more than the formalities of elective democracy, is what 40 years of the political crime called communism deprived them of."