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BRITAIN



Published: Mon, May 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Guardian, London, May 6: France's 2002 presidential election was by turns shocking, shaming and shambolic. It will not quickly be forgotten, nor will the wounds quickly heal.

In the end, Jean-Marie Le Pen obtained nothing like the 30 percent or more of the poll that his supporters claimed was possible. Yet his second-round vote remained rock solid, undented by two weeks of fierce attack from across the political spectrum.

With between 5 and 6 million votes all told, he was up about 1 million votes on his 1995 presidential showing. If all of yesterday's National Front voters maintain their allegiance in next month's general election, Mr. Le Pen will massively extend his parliamentary influence.

Tumor

The French did indeed turn out, en masse, to block Mr. Le Pen, as urged. But the bottom-line figures for the Front nevertheless suggest deep-rooted and slowly gaining strength, as if it were a tumor growing on the flank of French society.

The threat has been contained, for now; nobody will die just yet. But it has by no means been vanquished. The new fascism did not triumph yesterday; but nor did it fail.

SOUTH AFRICA

The Citizen, Johannesburg, May 7: Afronaut Mark Shuttleworth has proved to be an outstanding ambassador.

His initial achievement in becoming an information technology millionaire had already put South Africa on the map in a highly competitive field usually dominated by Silicon Valley.

But his space journey made even bigger news, propelling this country onto front pages and television screens worldwide. And, for a change, the image projected about our continent was positive. Here was a go-getter reaching great heights while contributing to advances in science and medicine.

'Roadshow'

The positive outpouring from the public will be the overwhelming reaction when he brings the spent Soyuz capsule and space suit on a nationwide schools "roadshow" tour next month.

Let's not bring him down to earth with a bump by continuing curmudgeonly arguments about whether he can claim to be an African, or debating if he should have spent his $20 million on other causes.

Such talk is small-minded. Mark and his shuttle have proved their worth. Let's join in celebrating a South African success.

GERMANY

Frankfurter Allgemeine, Frankfurt, May 7: There was never any indication that the Bush administration would change its mind and ask the Senate to approve the statute to set up an international criminal court.

The Senate would have left the recommendation to rot, anyway, and then voted it down by a massive majority. To this extent, Washington is only being consistent when it disavows the signing of the treaty.

There are arguments indicating that U.S. distrust is not based on a feeling of its own omnipotence.

It is obvious that a United States that is militarily active all over the world is a thorn in the eyes of many who would like to rid themselves of it by legal means.

'Genocide'

It is unimaginable that the United States would permit this, would hand over soldiers or politicians to a criminal court where they would be accused of "genocide."

But there is a deeper constant factor underlying Washington's relationship to international organizations.

There is more at stake with the criminal court too -- maximum freedom of action and unrestricted sovereignty. What is self-evident to Bush and Congress is perceived elsewhere as a new example of unilateral arrogance.

The real question is whether Washington has done itself any favors.

ITALY

La Stampa, Turin, May 8: In the last few hours, convergent pressures from the Vatican and the United States have been concentrating on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to obtain a "yes" that would unblock negotiations, which have been going on the past few weeks in Bethlehem and that seemed, until yesterday morning, a step away from success.

So, Berlusconi says no to his "friend" Bush. The government has felt ignored and excluded by a negotiation that has traveled along channels that are parallel and never communicating with the government's official ones.

Story with passages

Cardinals, ex-Christian Democrats and sui generis negotiators have been involved in a story with passages that are still obscure and where we have seen all sorts of structures in use, apart from the structures and diplomats of the Italian government.

Whether or not the "no" repeated yesterday to the U.S. administration is absolute or definitive -- or whether it is not still possible to find an agreement -- is perhaps early to say. But yesterday's kamikaze attack serves as a reminder of how urgent it is to find a way out.




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