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Western Press Review: Commentary Covers Many Issues

Prague, 19 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary examines a variety of issues today, from the growing violence against white farmers in Zimbabwe to China's escape from censure at the UN to doubts over expansion of the European Union.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Mugabe is that worst of all killers -- an ethnic murderer

A Daily Telegraph commentator says there is only one way to deal with President Robert Mugabe, who is openly tolerating the violence against white farmers in Zimbabwe. Writer Anthony Daniels argues that Mugabe should be extradited for crimes against humanity. In his words, "Quiet diplomacy will hardly mean much to him, while breaking off diplomatic relations will leave Britain unrepresented just when it most needs representation in the country. Economic sanctions, in so far as they would be effective at all, would harm the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, the majority of whom appear to be heartily sick of Comrade Bob."

Referring to atrocities Mugabe allegedly committed when he led a guerrilla faction during the civil war in the 1970s, Daniels argues that Mugabe, as he puts it, "is responsible for many more deaths than [Chilean dictator] Augusto Pinochet ever was. Moreover, his victims were selected [by his North-Korean trained troops] almost solely on ethnic grounds, because they were Matabele, so he is that worst of all killers -- an ethnic murderer."

Daniels continues: "The ethicists of the [British] Foreign Office could therefore put Mr. Mugabe on notice that, if the land occupations continue and if another farmer is killed, Britain will ask for his extradition as soon as he is overthrown. This should give him pause for thought, since relatively few countries would be left to him as places of asylum, and none in which such an old spendthrift sybarite would wish to live. North Korea might be all right for training troops, but not for residence."

FINANCIAL TIMES: South Africa must lead the way in convincing Mr. Mugabe to hold fair elections

An editorial in The Financial Times offers a gentler way out of Zimbabwe's crisis -- pressure from other African nations. The editorial says this: "Britain and others should continue to warn President Robert Mugabe that he is putting his country at risk. But the message will have more impact if it comes from closer to home." The editorial goes on to warn: "Zimbabwe's collapse would be a blow to hopes for a stable and prosperous southern Africa." Faced with that possibility, it says, "[Zimbabwe's] neighbors, with South Africa at the fore, must lead the way in convincing Mr. Mugabe that the only way out of a tragedy of his own making is through fair elections."

ASIAN WALL STREET JOURNAL: The key to winning the human rights debate in China is impartiality

Another human rights issue capturing Western press attention is the failure in the UN Human Rights Commission of a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning China. The Asian Wall Street Journal argues that the international community should continue to pressure China on its human rights record. In its editorial, the newspaper argues that China depends on international respect, saying: "Lacking a democratic mandate, President Jiang Zemin uses the respect he commands as a head of state as a way of boosting his legitimacy." It continues: "The best response is to engage China in trade while continuing to publicize abuses. The key to winning the human rights debate in China is impartiality, keeping this dialogue separate from trade, defense and other matters of national interest."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: An open China is one that welcomes diversity and change

The International Herald Tribune opens its editorial page to Stanley Roth, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who argues that the U.S. policy of friendly relations with China will help it become what he calls "a country that plays by the accepted international rules, cooperating and competing peacefully within those rules." Roth argues that will lead to improvements in Chinese human rights. In his words, "An open China is one that welcomes diversity and change, encouraging the best ideas from both its own people and the international community. It not only respects freedom of thought, expression and religion, it also recognizes that these freedoms benefit both its people and the government by ensuring that the best new ideas emerge and that old ideas are challenged and reconsidered."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The cowardliness of the Europeans is blameworthy

In an editorial titled "Europe chickens out on China," Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung asks: "What do Iraq and China have in common? In both countries human rights are injured. And what is the difference? Iraq has to let itself get bashed in front of the world, China doesn't."

Europe, the editorial says, did not join the U.S. in sponsoring the resolution censuring China at the UN Human Rights Commission because it asked itself why it should anger China over a resolution that would never get to the table anyway.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung attacks that logic with these words: "The cowardliness of the Europeans is blameworthy. Three years after the start of the "human rights dialogue" with China -- which EU diplomats supported -- Beijing has in the last year stepped on human rights even more than usual. The showpiece example is the disproportionate persecution of the Falun Gong sect. 'Dialogue cannot replace deeds,' the new EU Commissioner and old China-needler Chris Patten said recently. Have Europe's statesmen listened?"

European papers are pessimistic about Italy's future after regional elections on Sunday, in which Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and his allies were decisively beaten by the center-right coalition led by media magnate and former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Italy may be headed for a period of instability

An editorial in The Financial Times charges: "Italy appears to be reverting to type -- as a country that has had 57 governments since the second world war. Whether the coalition falls or not, the country is at most 12 months from a general election -- a contest that Mr. Berlusconi on present form looks likely to win. But even if the election takes place immediately, Italy may still be headed for a period of instability, given the doubts that surround the center-right's political program."

AFTENPOSTEN: Bossi's conduct is as troublesome for Rome as it is for his partners

Norway's Aftenposten also predicts a period of instability, which it says will benefit Berlusconi. In the editorial's words, "The regional election in Italy has weakened left-of-center Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema's government so much that it can hardly survive. The main reason is that D'Alema took it as his personal challenge to fight against the right wing."

The Norwegian newspaper continues: "The winner is Silvio Berlusconi, who had been written off as a political factor by most observers and voters alike when he had to step down after less than a year as prime minister in 1994. Yet, notwithstanding the scandals, the court cases, and the corruption charges, he has been able to form an alliance with the largely unpredictable Umberto Bossi. Bossi's aim is to bring about sovereignty for northern Italy and his conduct is as troublesome for Rome as it is for his partners."

TIMES: Germany and Britain first have to put their full weight behind the expansion of Europe to the East

Turning to a different European topic, The Times, London, comments on increasing fears that support is waning for eastward enlargement of the European Union. In an editorial, the newspaper says Poland is justifiably concerned that the evolving friendship between Britain and Russia could hurt its chances for accession. After all, it notes, "it is difficult to be best pals simultaneously with Moscow and Warsaw."

But the Times argues that countries hoping to make the first round of expansion should be even more concerned about Germany, where the Christian Democrats are, it says, "targeting the middle-class voters lost to Chancellor [Gerhard] Schroeder ... and playing the populist card of opposing immigration." Germany, the Times says, should refrain from stirring up fears that a flood of Slavs will take all jobs in Western Europe, and instead should return to its earlier policy of openness.

In the editorial's words: "There is an entrepreneurial dynamism to the east which has evaporated in Germany. Germany and Britain could show Europe how to tap this energy -- but first they have to put their full weight behind the expansion of Europe to the East."

(Susan Caskie contributed to this report.)