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Western Press Review: Serbia's Path To Progress, Mideast Peace, And The China Century

Prague, 3 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Analysis in the Western press today discusses the pitfalls of current U.S. policy on Iran, the upcoming dominance of China on the world scene, the international community's attempts to halt the bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Serbia's bloody path to progress, as well as events in the Middle East and Iraq.


Writing in "The New York Times," Nicholas Kristof says it is absurd for the G-8 leaders meeting in Evian, France, to attempt to confront global challenges without the nation "that may well dominate" the century: China. He says, "Even if China's gross domestic product is measured using [its] undervalued exchange rate, its economy is far bigger than those of G-8 members like Canada or Italy -- and almost three times the size of Russia's."

Kristof says, "The two key players in the world are China and the U.S." on several issues the G-8 is now addressing -- from policies on North Korean arms to global warming. And he calls it "ridiculous to include Russia in the G-8 but not China, which adds a Russia's worth of economic output to the world every two years.

Kristof acknowledges that China is not considered an industrialized nation, even though it "exports more manufactured goods than Canada, Italy or Russia." And while it is not a democracy, neither is China communist -- Kristof says its leadership is actually fascist, as its "nationalistic, one-party dictatorship" presides over "a free-enterprise economy."

China is too important to ignore, Kristof says. As world leaders "struggle over SARS, AIDS, Iran and North Korea, they need China within their ranks, as a member of the G-9."


An analysis by historian Latinka Perovic for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting says the March assassination of reformist Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and the arrest of those responsible for the killing of Serbia's former pro-modernization President Ivan Stambolic have "marked the beginning of a new era in Serbia."

Perovic says the killings of both Djindjic and Stambolic have highlighted "the criminal nature" of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic's regime. "But now that Milosevic is in The Hague and Stambolic has been buried, it is possible to bid farewell to the horrific deeds of the past decade.

"In addition to confronting the crimes committed in its name, Serbia needs to re-establish its moral values, rebuild the state and help its people heal. Milosevic's dictatorship impoverished the country and destroyed so much of Serbia's capital and human potential." Tens of thousands do not have jobs, she says. And it could prove "extremely difficult to build a democracy in these conditions because poor people don't have time to worry about civic affairs."

But the Serbian government "let the genie out of the bottle when it began cracking down on the drug traffickers, people smugglers, war criminals and robbers" that had supported Milosevic's regime.

"The assassination of Djindjic and the discovery of Stambolic's remains set the process into motion. It will be a long process, but now that it has begun, it is irreversible."


A commentary in today's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" discusses U.S. President George W. Bush's current tour of the Middle East, aimed at garnering support among Arab leaders for the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace. The paper says Bush is set on implementing the new peace plan, in part to "provide an impulse for pluralistic and democratic government in the entire region."

Some see the plan as a mere "mirage," considering the history of the Mideast. Britain, in the aftermath of World War II, gave the Jews a homeland, but sowed the seeds of more discontent in the region. Now the United States is renewing the attempt to settle the conflict.

The commentary is skeptical of the outcome, however, and warns against harboring false hope. The commentary calls it a "fatal error" that only those leaders who are close U.S. allies will attend the summit today of Arab leaders in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik to discuss the plan. "There would be a better chance of success, and the meeting's credibility would be greater" says the paper, "if representatives from Syria and Lebanon attended. As it is, it will be easy for extremists to dismiss the Western delegates as intriguers, abetted by their willing partners."


Writing in the "Chicago Tribune," University of Chicago professor Marvin Zonis says current U.S. policy on Iran risks many pitfalls. Amid U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, cooperation between Tehran and Washington was broadening. But now the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is accusing Tehran of harboring Al-Qaeda fugitives. Moreover, Zonis says Bush seems set to adopt a policy of providing assistance to Iran's reformist opponents of clerical rule, "in an effort to force their overthrow."

But Zonis warns that Iran's anti-Western elements "will use any hint of U.S. intervention" to overthrow the reformers "and then mobilize the most fascist-like elements [to] preserve their rule." And "no matter how eager the Iranian people are to be rid of their clerical rulers, any successor regime that comes to power with clear U.S. support will be seen as a tool of U.S. 'imperialism' and will have no popular legitimacy."

Iran's suppression of political opposition has left "no nationally credible opposition leaders," says Zonis. And any breakdown in Iran's central control would lead to "bloody [competitions] for power" and "make the country a far more fertile home for Al-Qaeda."

Perhaps the U.S. administration is just ratcheting up the pressure to spur Tehran to crack down on Al-Qaeda remnants. But Washington may also feel Iran is the logical next step after its Iraq success. But Iran, says Zonis, "is no Iraq."


"An interim government in Iraq is unlikely in the near future, and the opposition can lay aside hopes of a National Assembly anytime soon," says a commentary in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung."

The paper says the U.S. decision to hold all the reins of power in Baghdad for the present is justified considering the chaotic situation that prevails. But critics charging the U.S. with "betrayal" also have a point, the paper says.

An occupying regime to which there is currently no alternative has been installed for Iraq's period of chaotic transition. Yet this regime does not fulfill the pronouncements made earlier by U.S. leaders. They promised Iraqis freedom, democracy, a government of their own. Now the Americans have realized that in fact, rebuilding is an enormously long-term and boring project. And the paper says Iraqis "are aware they have been deceived."

"What is scandalous is not the occupation," says the paper. "Following 35 years of a dictator's rule it is not permissible for the U.S. to leave Iraq to its own devices. But what is scandalous is the lack of a plan in steering the peace process and the cynical negligence with which occupation forces wanted to engineer its duties. The Bush administration wanted this war. Now it is responsible for Iraq's security, for providing for the people and for the building of a stable political structure," the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" says.


"The New York Times" in an editorial compares what is going on today in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia. In 1995, 400 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers failed to prevent an incident in which Serbs massacred about 7,000 Muslim men and boys. The paper says the United Nations, "which had promised security, betrayed Srebrenica by failing to send enough men and [limiting] the ones there with restrictive rules of engagement. The UN failure shocked the world's conscience." But today, "the same thing is happening in eastern Congo."

The Democratic Republic of Congo's four-year war has left over 3 million people dead. In the district of Ituri, the United Nations "promised to guarantee security as a peace process was put into place." But a small contingent of peacekeepers has been unable to stop civilians from being massacred.

"The New York Times" says the new force approved on 30 May by the UN Security Council "is a real improvement, but may not be strong enough." A significant UN force "is just one part of the necessary response," the editorial says. "The United States, European countries and South Africa must all increase the pressure on Congo, Uganda and Rwanda to carry out the peace accords and stop arming proxy militias."

The editorial says international peacekeepers "run great risks, and the United Nations should not send them lightly. But when genocidal massacres are occurring, the world has a duty to step in."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" in an editorial today discusses Burma's detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 19 of her supporters. Rangoon's military junta made the arrests over the weekend after a campaign of increasing harassment in recent months by the junta and its allies. The weekend crackdown also sealed the offices of her National League for Democracy party and suspended classes at all universities. Violent clashes last week between pro-junta forces and opposition supporters resulted in four deaths, providing a pretext for the government to take Aung and her supporters into so-called "protective custody."

The editorial goes on to say that Burma's economy "is in shambles. Rampant inflation has left ordinary citizens struggling to find enough money to feed their families." And yet after last week's political crackdown, it is "hard to imagine anything more calculated to ensure that Burma stands no chance [of] getting the Western investment and aid that would revive its ramshackle economy."

Even Japan, one of Burma's few economic donors, has come under increasing domestic pressure to withhold aid until the human rights situation improves. The weekend's arrests sparked demonstrations outside the Burmese Embassy in Tokyo.

But the editorial says China's links with Burma undermine the international community's attempts to withhold economic aid from Rangoon, as Beijing is likely to maintain ties with Burma's military junta and continue providing "large-scale economic assistance, funding everything from telephone exchanges to roads, bridges and port facilities."

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