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Western Press Review: Iraq Agrees To Inspections And The Free Press As A Tool To Combat Global Poverty

Prague, 14 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Much of the Western press today focuses on Iraq's acceptance of United Nations Resolution 1441, which calls for renewed weapons inspections and the eventual surrender of all weapons of mass destruction. After an initial rejection of the resolution by the Iraqi parliament on 12 November, President Saddam Hussein unconditionally agreed to the UN's terms yesterday. Iraq now has until 8 December to fully disclose all of its weapons programs. Other topics today include a chance for peace in the Middle East, Russia's ongoing military campaign in Chechnya, and why a free press is key to overcoming global poverty.


Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" says Iraq's acceptance yesterday of United Nations Resolution 1441 has now made it subject to "much more stringent" weapons inspections than ever before. The UN Security Council has given the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) the "authority to enter eight presidential compounds previously out of bounds, to remove Iraqi scientists and officials from the country to interview them, and to declare exclusion zones in which ground and aerial movement is suspended."

The resolution states that by 8 December, Baghdad must fully disclose all of its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The paper says at that point, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "can either continue to maintain that he has no WMD programs," or he can "admit to some material and hope to keep the rest hidden."

Much depends on "the determination and intelligence-gathering capabilities of UNMOVIC," the paper says. "However, Saddam knows that lying and obstruction could put him in material breach of his obligations and thereby furnish a casus belli" for the U.S. to declare war.


A "Stratfor" (Strategic Forecasting) commentary today remarks that Iraq's media have produced almost no coverage of the Iraqi parliament's rejection earlier this week of the new UN resolution on arms inspections. "This silence in the media is extremely significant," says "Stratfor." "It means that the vote was primarily for external consumption, rather than an indication of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's real intentions. The point of the parliament vote was to set the stage for negotiations with the Security Council rather than to signal what likely would be immediate war."

The commentary says the media's silence is also interesting in that it could indicate that Saddam Hussein "has concerns about how the Iraqi public would react to news of imminent war. Normally, creating a sense of intensifying crisis would both prepare the public psychologically for all eventualities and would signal solidarity between public and state. Hussein's decision not to publicize the rejection could mean that he has some serious concerns about public attitudes."


"The New York Times" says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's decision yesterday to unconditionally readmit a new UN weapons inspections team means that any U.S.-led military campaign against Iraq "has been put off at least until international weapons inspectors can get into place in Baghdad and test the regime's willingness to cooperate." The paper says this is "welcome news" for the aim of destroying Iraq's arsenal and any programs for developing nuclear weapons. Although the U.S. administration remains skeptical that the Iraqi leader will comply with all the inspectors' demands, the editorial says it must give inspections "a proper chance to work."

"The New York Times" goes on to discuss a recently surfaced audio tape containing a message to the U.S. and its allies, allegedly from Osama bin Laden. In the tape, bin Laden reportedly links Russia's campaign in Chechnya to "a long list of Muslim grievances, including East Timor and the sanctions on Iraq." Yet the paper calls it "most unlikely" that bin Laden was at all linked to the Moscow hostage taking last month. Bin Laden's mention of Chechnya was merely another attempt to persuade the Muslims of the world, "from East to West, to view contemporary history as an anti-Muslim plot." The editorial urges action to prevent what it calls bin Laden's brand of "propaganda from falling on fertile soil."


Daniel Broessler in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" criticizes Russian President Vladimir Putin for his policy in Chechnya and his suppression of a free press in Russia.

Referring to Putin's latest vitriolic speech against Chechen rebels issued during this week's EU-Russia summit, the commentary says, "Putin did not lose his role, he found it." In the final analysis, he is just as much opposed to rebels in Chechnya as to freedom of the press. That is why he has adopted strict limits for the media's reporting on so-called antiterrorist operations. Putin is not only pursuing Russian intervention in Chechnya but is suppressing reports about the campaign.

Broessler says these latest developments place a special responsibility on the West. Since there is hardly a word of criticism of the Kremlin's Caucasus policy at home, the condemnation should be all the louder abroad. It is shameful that it took Chechen terror aimed at Russians to turn Western attention once more to the war in Chechnya.

Putin's doctrine of declaring that Russia is fighting terrorism in Chechnya, that Russian soldiers are defending Christian values in the Caucasus, and that criticism of the Kremlin is aiding and abetting Al-Qaeda is leading the West toward "self delusion," says Broessler. In these circumstances the West cannot consider Russia a genuine ally. A negotiated peace in Chechnya and freedom of the press are essential prerequisites for a valid alliance.


An editorial in "The Boston Globe" discusses what it calls "a prospect for qualitative change" in Israeli politics, which could ultimately improve hopes for an eventual peace with the Palestinians. The paper says the most likely new leader for Israel's Labor Party is Amram Mitzna, the mayor of Haifa and a retired army general. Mitzna "has said he will propose security policies markedly different" from those of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. These policies could include "renewed negotiations with the Palestinians regardless of whether Yasser Arafat or a successor is their leader, a commitment to dismantle some settlements, and in the event a negotiated resolution is not possible, a unilateral Israeli withdrawal to a provisional line of separation."

The editorial says, "[the] sharper the differences between Mitzna and Sharon, [the] better for all concerned." It notes that during Israel's war in Lebanon, which was run by Sharon when he was Israel's defense minister, Mitzna "resigned as a matter of conscience." The paper calls Mitzna "a practitioner of straight talk." He is capable "of making a cogent, realistic case to Israelis that their ultimate security requires a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians, and that such a peace will require ceding most settlements to a Palestinian state based on borders close to those discussed by the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams at Taba in January 2001."


An editorial in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" looks at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's assent to Resolution 1441, which was adopted by the United Nations Security Council last week. Iraq has agreed to allow UN weapons inspectors to return after nearly a four-year absence.

The commentary says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein reacted exactly according to expectations. Although Hussein actually had until tomorrow (15 November) to consider the resolution, he has already given his clear acceptance. This, the paper says, will be presented to the Iraqi people as a responsible decision and proof of Hussein's "rational attitude as an ambassador of peace."

Now it is clear that the American threats had the desired effect. Unlike in the first Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator knows that the end is in sight for him politically -- and possibly physically -- "if he drives matters to extremes." He has always been considered unpredictable, but this time he seems to know what is in store for him and has unsurprisingly become more conciliatory.


In a joint contribution to the "International Herald Tribune," Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz, and Roumeen Islam of the World Bank Institute, discuss how free access to information is essential for economic and social development. They say that in government, "a high level of secrecy often enables those in authority to hoard their knowledge to increase their power," which undermines the public's ability "to take part in the political [process]. Behind closed doors, corruption thrives." Similarly, in the private sector, corrupt corporate leaders "can keep shareholders in the dark and line their own pockets."

The authors cite a recently published book by the World Bank that argues "access to information is an essential component of a successful development strategy. To reduce global poverty, we must liberate access to information." Stiglitz and Islam say there are "still far too many governments that withhold information and stifle the media who try to bring knowledge to the public." A free and independent media "can expose corruption in government and the corporate sector, provide a voice for citizens to be heard, help build public consensus to bring about change, and enable markets to work better by providing reliable economic information."

They write: "Free speech and a free press not only make abuses of government powers less likely, they also enhance the likelihood that people's basic social needs will be met. In doing so, a free press reduces poverty and boosts economic development."


A "Le Monde" editorial discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's caustic comments earlier this week, made in response to a question on Chechnya from a "Le Monde" reporter at the EU-Russia summit. This latest outburst from Putin is informative, says the paper. But the true lesson of Putin's comments will be lost on those it should instruct, namely Western leaders such as U.S. President George W. Bush, who has accepted the Kremlin's official line on the Chechen matter.

The "great lie" from the Kremlin is that Chechen separatists are part of an broader Islamic militant movement that seeks to defeat all of Christendom. "Le Monde" says this would be an unacceptable oversimplification even if there are Islamic militants among the Chechens. But the paper says Bush has nonetheless accepted the "Putin Equation" -- that the war in Chechnya is part of the war against Al-Qaeda. And Bush's European colleagues, including French President Jacques Chirac, are extremely accommodating in playing along with this deceit.

"Le Monde" says if terrorism is defined by targeting civilian populations for political ends, then the atrocities committed by the Russian Army in Chechnya -- including kidnappings for ransom and torture -- truly fall under the category of "terrorism of the masses." The refusal to recognize this undermines the antiterrorism campaign with its failure to address the terrorism that is, for the moment, politically expedient.

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