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Western Press Review: Something For Nearly Everyone

Prague, 2 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- There's something for nearly everyone in our survey today of Western press commentary.


"NATO is changing sides [in Kosovo]," "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" commentator Peter Muench writes. He says that after fighting a war to defend Kosovar Albanians, NATO now is allying with an old foe against a new common enemy. Muench writes: "That old foe is Serbia, the common enemy, Albanian militias." He adds: "The first indication of this sea change is the decision made by the group of NATO foreign ministers to embark on a gradual reduction in the size of the buffer zone on the Kosovo [boundary with Serbia proper]." Groups of armed Albanian nationalists have been operating from the buffer zone where, by agreement, Serb forces' movements are tightly restricted.


NATO-Serb relations are the subject of subtler nuances in a "New York Times" editorial today on the same subject. NATO is prepared to dismantle the safe haven for Albanian terrorists, the newspaper says, but it is making demands on Serbian forces also. The editorial says: "NATO is taking a realistic approach to a difficult problem along the border between Kosovo and Serbia [proper]. For months, armed Albanian separatists have exploited a [five-km-wide] demilitarized zone, [using it as] a staging area for attacks on Serbian police and civilians. Now," the paper says, "NATO is prepared to start phasing out the zone, letting Serbian troops gradually return. But NATO rightly insists that Belgrade first carry out a set of political and military conditions designed to protect the rights of ethnic Albanian civilians living in the troubled border area."


Libya's so-called "great leader" Muammar Qaddafi, Rudolph Chimelli says in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," is experiencing disappointment with his attempts to extend his leadership beyond his country's borders. Writing from Paris, Chimelli contends that, having failed to spark a common market with his Arab neighbors, Qaddafi has turned his attention to Africa. The commentator says: "His new objective -- founding a 'United States of Africa' -- effectively was sanctioned at an Organization of African Unity, OAU, summit held in Libya in 1999. There, the palms of new African federalists were greased not so much by the power of Qaddafi's arguments as by the extent of his oil reserves." Chimelli comments: "Now a second OAU summit is planned in Libya, to be held in the town of Sirte, to [restart] the stalling project. This time observers can expect more than mere friendly statements of intent. But by no means all of the 53 heads of state have chosen to take up their invitations. Only 17 countries have so far ratified the foundation treaty -- Africa is very large, Libya is small and a dozen conflicts are a visible sign of the gulf separating the various interests represented on the continent." He concludes: "While many nations want to get their hands on Libya's wealth, few are keen on Qaddafi's blueprints."


The near collapse of Turkey's economy has a bright side, finds a "Wall Street Journal Europe" contributor, international relations analyst Norman Stone. Writing from Ankara, he says that a political quarrel set off a figurative bomb last week in Turkey's financial markets. Stone writes: "Where does Turkey go from here? There generally is a silver lining to these financial [clouds], of which the histories of most fast-growing countries are full. In the present case, there will be a much-needed rationalization of the banking system, and a more sensible provision of credit. There may even be a substantial reordering of politics with, at last, a single party of the moderate right instead of, at present, three."

Stone continues: "The basic strengths of the country have not been affected by the financial troubles, and as the Middle East shows more and more signs of coming trouble, the West will need the Turks at least as much as they need the West. So there's a crisis perhaps, but no reason to panic."


The fate of the common European Union currency, the euro, rests on external factors, staffers Tony Barber and Christopher Swann conclude in a news analysis in Britain's "Financial Times." The writers say the EU's European Central Bank is hoping for popular success after euro coins and bills begin circulating next January. But , they add, there are potential problems. The analysts' say that the euro zone's public has noted the effect of the currency's weakness against the dollar in a shrinking -- only on paper, for the moment -- of the value of private savings. But, Barber and Swann write, people have failed to associate the falling currency with stronger exports and job creation.

The "Financial Times" analysis says: "Come next January, mass public rejection of the euro seems highly improbable, [partly because] the euro-zone [probably will] expand faster than the United States for the first time since the American recession of 1991. [But] if the United States stages a rapid economic recovery later this year that keeps the euro weak against the dollar, the [European celebration] may not last all that long."


Ukraine is the subject of another "Financial Times" commentary, this one submitted by U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros. He says that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma should resign in the face of a potentially "devastating indictment" for "a host of crimes from murder to corruption."

Soros says that even Kuchma's promise of an investigation panel with foreign experts cannot succeed unless Kuchma stands aside. Under the headline, "Step Aside, Mr. Kuchma," Soros writes: "The West must take a clear position, denouncing Mr. Kuchma's behavior and actions. There is no way for the international community to continue to do business with Mr. Kuchma until an impartial investigation has been completed and those responsible are held to account."

But he urges donors to continue contributing to what he calls "the development of open society in Ukraine." He concludes: "It would be tragic if Mr. Kuchma's failings were to compel the international community to abandon civil society in these most difficult times."


Proposed changes in U.S.-backed sanctions against Iraq evokes a "Boston Globe" staff analysis which concludes that a proposed new U.S. policy would retain old errors in judgment. The analysis says: "Striving to cope with the failure of Bill Clinton's containment policy for Saddam Hussein's regime, [U.S.] Secretary of State Colin Powell proposed a modification of UN sanctions against Iraq during a tour this week of Mideast capitals. What Powell calls a policy of 'smart sanctions' would repeat Clinton's mistake of pretending that Saddam can be kept in a box, even though he kicked out UN weapons inspectors 26 months ago and has since been free to develop weapons of mass destruction."

The analysts conclude: "Iraq's foreign minister said Monday [26 February] at the UN, 'There will be no return for any [weapons] inspectors in Iraq, even if sanctions are totally lifted.' Translated into the language of pure power that Saddam speaks, this means that he wants above all to keep his weapons of mass destruction, even if that means he will have to wait a bit longer before he gets his hands on 100 percent of Iraq's oil revenues. Powell no doubt means well, but he has yet to understand that the only smart way to sanction Saddam is to help Iraqis get rid of him."


An explosion in the intricacy of ethical problems created by science and technology engages "International Herald Tribune" contributor Flora Lewis. Ordinarily a commentator on grave international topics, Lewis spreads her portfolio farther today. She writes: "The 20th century showed that science can discover and invent capacities constantly beyond what societies or even religions can encompass in their moral frame. We find out how to do things long before we are clear about whether they should be done and in what circumstances."

Lewis quotes Bill Joy, chief scientist of the U.S. company Sun Microsystems, as writing recently that mankind is on the verge of rendering itself obsolete. Joy wrote that some scientific developments are of such primal importance that there ought to be a democratic opportunity for ordinary people to vote on whether they want this kind of research to continue."

Lewis comments: "That is obviously impractical. We voters don't know enough about the subjects, and at the rate things are changing we will never have a chance to learn in time to make a sensible decision."

"And yet," she adds, "it is right to raise the issue, right to be aware of the tremendously increased responsibilities that this generation and the ones immediately ahead have for humanity. Some answers are flooding out at the labs, but we need a lot more questions."