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Western Press Review: Ireland Approves Nice, North Korea's Nukes, Ukraine And Iraq

Prague, 21 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary and analysis in the Western press today discusses the revelation that North Korea has secretly been developing nuclear weapons, Ireland's weekend approval of the Nice Treaty, and continuing tensions between the United States and Iraq over suspicions that Baghdad is developing weapons of mass destruction.


An editorial in "The Irish Times" says Irish voters can be proud that they passed the Nice Treaty "emphatically" -- by 63 percent for to 37 percent against. After Ireland rejected the treaty last year, this approval now "makes it possible to enlarge the European Union in a timely and agreed fashion over the next year, assuming the remaining negotiating obstacles are overcome."

The paper says that within Ireland, those in favor of ratifying the treaty "won the debate fairly and squarely." But the "no" campaigners also "raised valid questions, which [are] required to be addressed -- and many of which are not resolved by this result."

"The Irish Times" says, "It is time now to devote continuing attention to precisely what European integration should do, and how it should do it, now that Ireland's decision on Nice has opened the way for Europe to unite democratically under the rule of law for the first time in its history."


Britain's "the Independent" also discusses Ireland's approval of the Nice Treaty, but advises that "make no mistake: widening the European Union to take in the former communist countries is profoundly in the interests of all the peoples of this once-divided continent."

But in rejecting the treaty last year, the Irish electorate was "sounding a warning about the adequacy of the preparation for expansion and, more generally, about the quality of leadership in the present union. Their concerns should not be forgotten just because they voted the right way in the end."


Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" says it is "simply inaccurate" to describe the Nice Treaty as a treaty on enlargement. Nice "barely mentions enlargement," it says. Instead, Nice "abolishes the national veto in 39 areas, [provides] for more harmonization in the field of justice and home affairs, allows for recalcitrant states to have their voting rights suspended and calls for pan-European political parties. The Nice summit also agreed on more moves towards EU armed forces and a European constitution."

Ultimately, says the "Telegraph," it "represents a power grab by Brussels, aimed at ensuring that the applicants are presented with political union as a fait accompli."

The Irish vote on Nice was "truly a victory of the elites over the people," the daily says. Irish voters had already rejected it once, but evidently their word was not final.


The "Chicago Tribune's" Steve Chapman discusses America's options for responding to North Korea's admission that it has been secretly developing nuclear weapons. He says there are essentially three choices: isolating the country, a military attack, or accepting the situation.

Chapman says diplomatic isolation of North Korea and economic sanctions were tried for 40 years, to little effect. And using military force to seek regime change in North Korea is "out of the question," he says. North Korea has a large army and war would only come with "an intolerable price."

Thus, says Chapman, the only real choice is "accepting something [that the U.S.] may not be able to change." Conventional forces and the U.S. nuclear arsenal will continue to contain North Korea, "just as they have in the past."

"But this latest development ought to remind Americans that even the world's only superpower can be stymied," he says. "Nukes, after all, are the best way to assure a government's survival." Governments now see that if the U.S. "can decide who rules Iraq, we may later decide who rules other nations. There is only one protection: going nuclear."

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is focused on "remaking the world to suit its preferences." Chapman says the U.S. "shouldn't be surprised if some countries will do everything they can to resist those plans, and [it] shouldn't be surprised if some succeed."


Doug Struck writes in "The Washington Post" that in North Korea's opinion, the United States "has repeatedly broken agreements, harbors ideas of attacking it, and inexplicably refuses to even talk to a government that desperately wants better ties."

Last week, the United States announced that Pyongyang has admitted to developing nuclear weapons in violation of a 1994 agreement. But North Korea has "long seen the United States as the chief violator of the pact. The heart of the agreement -- from North Korea's perspective -- was a promise by the United States to end hostile relations and normalize diplomatic and economic ties. For years, North Korea has complained bitterly that Washington failed to deliver on that promise." Struck says this accusation "has some merit."

While the U.S. views North Korea as a "belligerent threat" -- to the region or even to the United States itself -- North Korea "sees just the opposite. It regards the United States as a hostile superpower looking for an opportunity to be rid of the North Korean entity." When it witnesses America's willingness to send troops to Afghanistan, Iraq, or the Balkans, North Korea "sees every reason to believe it is next on the list."


A "Financial Times" analysis by Stefan Wagstyl, Tom Warner, and Andrew Jack says Iraq is increasingly relying on Ukraine and Belarus as weapons providers. Russia, Iraq's traditional supplier, is "committed to its new friendship with the U.S. and reluctant to break the United Nations embargo on Iraq -- although Russian arms still slip through to Iraq via intermediaries."

The evidence regarding Ukraine and Belarus "is mounting: alleged secret recordings made in the office of [Ukrainian President] Leonid Kuchma; intercepted shipments; the arrest of suspected arms traders; Western intelligence reports; and Baghdad's diplomatic maneuvers, including posting its first ambassador in Kyiv this summer."

Ukraine and Belarus "do not feel bound by unilateral export bans imposed by the U.S. on Iran, North Korea, and Libya," although they claim to respect UN embargoes on Iraq. Both nations, as well as Russia, "face huge economic pressures in their arms industries." The "temptation for cash-strapped factories is enormous: Iraq is ready to pay top prices. [Gone] are the days of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union subsidized huge weapons programs and supplied arms [to] allies for political ends. Today, hard cash is everything."

But the authors say while Russia "concentrates on its most important clients, China and India, [Ukraine] and Belarus have less to offer these clients. Lacking Russia's natural resources, they are more dependent on arms exports and less squeamish about their customers."


The October edition of "Le Monde Diplomatique" says in U.S. President George W. Bush's speech last month to the United Nations General Assembly outlining reasons for seeking regime change in Iraq, he cited human rights abuses perpetrated on Iraq's population by its government. But human rights group Amnesty International said Bush's claims are evidence that "once again, the human rights record of a country is used selectively to legitimize military actions. The U.S. and other Western governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and ignored Amnesty International's campaign on behalf of the thousands of unarmed Kurdish civilians killed in the 1988 attacks on Halabja."

"Le Monde Diplomatique" says the Bush administration is not considering "what price the Iraqi people will pay" for a U.S.-led military intervention. "More than 12 years of embargo have had disastrous results," it says. "Le Monde" quotes a British report released this year that says Iraqi sanctions "do not effectively target or affect political or military elites. Rather, they hit the weakest and most vulnerable members of Iraqi society, those with the least ability to influence decisions and who are least able to compete for scarce resources. The primary victims of the sanctions -- children, the elderly, the sick, the poor -- are also those least responsible for government policy and least able to change policy."


In France's "Liberation," Halkawt Hakem says the Iraqi people well know the nature of the regime that governs them. They know that in order to remain in power, President Saddam Hussein did not hesitate to sacrifice portions of the population. Even today, says Hakem, the greatest danger to the Iraqi people comes from its own regime.

He says in the current debate over a potential war in Iraq, little is said of the Iraqi civilian population. But it is they "who will pay the heaviest price in the conflict, less from the allied bombs than from the artillery and biological and chemical weapons of their own regime."

Hakem says many Iraqis do want the U.S. to intervene and topple Saddam Hussein. Misery has struck more and more people, he says, and the middle classes have been reduced to poverty. Hakem cites international experts as saying the Iraqi regime -- which distributes the resources procured through the UN "oil-for-food" resolution -- takes more than 60 percent of the yield for the military or for reselling on the black market. The Iraqis may be terribly afraid of what a military conflict might mean for them, he says -- but their hopes are also greater.