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Western Press Review: Iraq's Parliamentary Rejection, 'Microfinancing' The Developing World, And Chechnya

Prague, 13 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Topics discussed in the Western press today include the Iraqi parliament's unanimous rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which calls on Iraq to disarm and clear the way for new weapons inspections; "microfinancing" as a creative form of foreign aid; and the ongoing Russian military campaign in Chechnya.


An editorial in Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" discusses the Iraqi parliament's unanimous vote yesterday rejecting United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. The resolution calls for unfettered access for UN inspectors to all suspected weapons sites and threatens "serious consequences" should Iraq fail to comply.

The editorial calls the Iraqi parliament's rejection a "meaningless minuet." Parliament decided to reject the UN resolution, seemingly ignoring the advice of President Saddam Hussein's son Uday, who urged compliance with UN demands. Yet the paper calls the vote merely "a show of independence," as the Iraqi parliament "is totally subservient to Saddam." This situation "has left the way open for the president to pose as an all-wise leader resolving the stalemate in the long-term interests of the nation."

The paper says it almost appears as if "a genuine difference of opinion had emerged between the [ruling] elite and a legislature standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the defiant masses." But this legislative dance "should fool no one," it says. "Parliament may posture, but Saddam knows he has until Friday [15 November], the UN deadline for acceptance, to avoid war."


A contribution to the "International Herald Tribune" by Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says now that the UN has authorized new inspections of suspected weapons sites in Iraq, the inspectors must be given the tools to do the job right. He suggests the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) should include members from previous inspections regimes, as they have "irreplaceable, on-the-ground experience."

First, says Cirincione, UNMOVIC must resolve outstanding questions from earlier inspections, particularly regarding "the production of the VX nerve agent, the alleged Iraqi disposal of missile warheads, and the extent of the country's biological-weapons program."

He writes: "Iraq has had four unimpeded years to construct new underground sites, build mobile facilities, and alter records. To overcome that advantage, inspectors must be equipped with the full range of reconnaissance, surveillance, listening, encryption, and photo-interpretation capabilities." The UN must move quickly to supply such tools, and all nations should begin sharing their intelligence information. Inspectors should also have "prompt, direct access" to Iraqi defectors, and must be able "to track procurement efforts both inside and outside Iraq."


In the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," columnist Peter Muench also looks at the Iraqi parliament's vote yesterday unanimously rejecting a new UN resolution on weapons inspections. He says the parliament has qualified its vote by saying it will "stand by any decision" taken by Saddam, who has until 15 November to inform the UN whether Iraq will cooperate with the resolution. The resolution demands that arms inspectors be allowed unhindered access to all suspected weapons sites, including Saddam Hussein's presidential compounds.

The paper describes parliament's move as a grand dance in which "the heroic Iraqis defy the evil ones, symbolized by the U.S.," and which has been choreographed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In fact, Muench notes, Saddam is entirely in charge and parliament has only created a slight obfuscation of this fact. Parliament's "no" vote is a clear statement, but not the last word, he says.

Muench says there is every indication that Saddam, in the end, will bow to pressure and agree to inspections. This will make him look like the savior of his country and simultaneously will ward off an immediate U.S. attack. But Muench says only when inspectors are actually on the ground "will the dance continue."


An editorial in "The New York Times" says, "For someone living on a dollar a day, a loan of a few hundred dollars -- to buy a sewing machine, a refrigerator, or a bicycle -- can mean the difference between destitution and a productive life."

Providing modest loans to the world's poorest so they can invest in individual or local enterprises has "proved a winning development strategy," the paper says. "If done properly, microfinancing can also be good business. [An] increasing number of governments and international organizations have realized that microfinancing provides a worthy form of renewable development capital."

The most effective programs offer loans to women clients, and these have "the added benefit of bolstering their independence and strengthening their role in society." "The New York Times" predicts that microfinancing will "play an important role in helping to reconstruct Afghanistan, and in bringing its women back into economic life."

The paper notes that U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill will address a conference on microcredit later this week. It says O'Neill should urge the administration of President George W. Bush to increase support for microfinancing organizations, as part of a "broader move to increase development spending that can be shown to be effective."


In "The New York Times," Michael Wines says that Russian President Vladimir Putin "blew his customary cool" earlier this week (11 November) "over the one issue that seems to have taken residence under his skin: Chechnya." Wines says Putin's often "inscrutable" behavior "befits his old career as a Soviet intelligence agent." But the Russian president's vitriolic remarks at the EU-Russia summit in Brussels -- implying that Chechen separatists are somehow part of, as Wines puts it, "a worldwide conspiracy to kill Americans and their allies" -- mark a distinct change.

Wines writes, "Kremlin aides later explained that Mr. Putin was both exhausted and, as one put it, 'sick and tired of Chechnya.'" Putin, Wines adds, "has good reason" to be fed up. Three years on, "not only have hopes for a quick military triumph evaporated, but atrocities appear on the rise."

But Wines says whatever the reason for Putin's outburst, "the contrast between the livid, salty Mr. Putin and the Western-style statesman was never so evident" as it was earlier this week, "at a meeting expressly aimed at drawing Russia more closely into the European fold." Wines notes that it is Europe's human rights monitors that "have been the most persistent critics of Russia's conduct of the war in Chechnya," and European leaders have "urged Mr. Putin most strongly to rein in his army's excesses and seek a peaceful settlement."


Karl Grobe in the "Frankfurter Rundschau" takes a critical look at German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's attitude toward Russia regarding its policy in Chechnya. He says Putin is correct to defend some aspects of his Chechnya policy as a strictly internal affair. But the extermination of the Chechen people, ostensibly as a fight against terrorism, is the result of "an absolute distortion of facts," says Grobe.

He criticizes Schroeder for ignoring reports connected with the hostage crisis in Moscow and for disregarding evidence that Chechen political leaders were not involved in acts of terror.

The German-Russian friendship is a prerequisite for peaceful developments in Europe, Grobe admits. But, he adds, "Among friends, genuinely open words are possible and necessary when the cause requires such. Otherwise, solidarity turns into servility." Grobe says this subservience has already been amply practiced in the past, in the former communist German Democratic Republic's dealings with the Soviet Union.


An analysis in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" says Europe is breaking up into smaller entities even while it unites in unprecedented fashion under supra-national bodies like the European Union. "Nearly two dozen new states won their independence in the 1990s, and more may be on the way," the paper says. In addition, "separatism is on the rise." Yet next month, the European Union is expected to invite 10 new countries to join, "erasing borders from Ireland to Poland," and coming closer to creating a single European Continent, "free and whole."

But even while Europe unifies, there is another trend occurring: "the pressure to decentralize political and economic power." Taken together, these two opposing trends "are changing the role, character, and size of the nation-state." From above, organizations like the EU, UN, or the World Trade Organization need "national capitals to surrender sovereignty." But there are competing demands from below "for greater authority and autonomy." The paper says, "Never before [have] conditions been so ripe for ever-smaller entities to feel confident enough to assert themselves politically."

"Done correctly, devolution or separation is good for democracy and the economy," the paper says. "Smaller countries and governments are closer to their people, and ideally better able to tailor policies" to their economic needs.

The paper says, "Predictions of the end of the nation-state are as foolhardy as in the past." But state structures "will need to adapt."


In "The Christian Science Monitor," John Hughes of the Salt Lake City, Utah, -based "Deseret News" writes on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the Taliban's withdrawal from Kabul that Afghanistan clearly "has a long way to go" before its democratic future is assured. "But life is far more agreeable than it was under the Taliban. Simple pleasures such as kite-flying and listening to popular music on the radio have been reinstated. Men need no longer wear beards. Women can go to school. Artists feel liberated. There's growing diversity in the press. An interim government is functioning in Kabul."

Yet immense obstacles remain, he says. Warlords struggle to seize or maintain power. Outside Kabul, security is tenuous due to a lack of sufficient international troops. "Highways are decrepit. Poverty and destruction abound after years of warfare. In the face of agricultural stagnation, opium production -- ironically cut back under the Taliban's rule -- is sharply up, as farmers grow whatever will yield cash." And critics say nobody is doing enough for the country.

Still, Afghanistan is "better off than it has been in years," Hughes says. "The U.S. and other countries are training a national army and police force that should improve security." A new constitution is to be drafted and a general election should follow. He says despite Afghanistan's "lingering challenges," intervention "has transformed it from a country in the grip of an oppressive tyranny to one limping along in a positive direction."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)