Egyptian Gazette, Cairo, July 3: Hours before it meets a July 3 deadline on Iraq, the U.N. Security Council seems in disarray. A controversial plan floated by Britain with the unqualified support of the U.S. on the review of the sanctions regime against Iraq is sailing on uncharted waters. Notoriously woolly and biased, the scheme has drawn stiff opposition from Baghdad. Russia has made no bones of its objection to the Anglo-American formula, euphemistically called "smart sanctions."
Fresh tension: Regardless of how the acrimonious debate on the "smart sanctions" scheme will end up, there are growing signs of fresh tension in the already volatile region.
Much to the chagrin of the U.S., many countries insist that the situation now is entirely different from that of eleven years ago.
Tages-Anzeiger, Zurich, July 2: In April the president of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg, demonstrated his self-confidence: against all expectations and attempts to pressure him, he refused to lower interest rates. Linked to this refusal was an unmistakable message to the United States: Europe is strong enough to handle the slump in the new economy and to take over from North America as the global economic engine.
Duisenberg's show of power was a total failure. Since then, the bank has meekly lowered interest rates, because economic growth in Europe had cooled off alarmingly. What is also irritating is that the dollar remains as strong as ever. Yet the burst Internet bubble is causing big damage particularly in the U.S. economy, and the Federal Reserve has aggressively cut interest rates.
Investor psychology: According to economics textbooks, the euro-dollar exchange rate should automatically find its level on the basis of economic trends. That is not the case. The strength of the dollar does not presently reflect the strength of the U.S. economy but rather the psychology of investors. They are convinced that the Americans will recover from this slump quicker than the Europeans.
A lot more decisive for the immediate future, however, is the psychology of consumers. The techno-euphoria of the past years has led businesses to invest too much in communications technology. They will be reticent to invest in new software or fiber-optic technology. The euro-dollar rate and the level of interest rates can do nothing to change that.
Consumers, on the other hand, can stop an economy from slipping into recession. Only if they can foresee the future will they continue buying cars, refrigerators and television sets and thus keep the economy going. Europe will become the economic engine if Europeans believe in the euro.
Ad-Dustour, Amman, July 2: The United States has drastically failed again, when the United Nations Security Council rejected the so-called "smart" sanctions on Iraq. Undoubtedly, that marked yet another American defeat, which is no less than the failure of the visit of U.S. secretary of state to the region a few days ago.
These failures within a week ascertain that the policy of arrogance toward Iraq, on the one hand, and the bias and prejudice toward Israel, on the other hand, will only culminate in further perplexity, turmoil and failure and bring upon the Americans hatred and isolation.
Honest mediator? We had hoped that the United States, as a sponsor of the peace process in the Middle East, would be able to carry out its role as an honest mediator in the brewing crisis in the Palestinian territories and exercise an effective diplomacy that would avert the collapse of the fragile cease-fire. Instead, this color-blind country had put the reigns of the peace process in the hands of the killer of women and children, Ariel Sharon.
We hope that Washington's isolation in the Security Council would prompt the Republican administration to rectify its policies in the Middle East so that it would be proven that it has no interest in continuously showing enmity to the Arabs and their causes.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, July 3: Good news from the land of the free. K-mart, the U.S. discount retailer, has decided to stop selling handgun ammunition in its more than 2,000 stores. The company made the decision after filmmaker Michael Moore and three survivors of the Columbine High School shooting complained that the easy availability of ammo was contributing to the rash of mass shootings in recent years.
Granted, in most civilized countries the very idea that bullets could be displayed on store shelves along with the gummi bears, shampoo and gardening shears would seem ridiculous. It's a capital crime in Malaysia even to possess a handgun bullet. In countries where possession is legal, customers usually must have a license, or at least fill out some serious paperwork, before they can buy handgun ammunition.
Progress? But in the United States, where about 30,000 people a year are killed with firearms, almost as many as died in the Korean War, this is called progress.