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SWITZERLAND



Published: Mon, September 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



SWITZERLAND

Der Bund, Bern, Aug. 27: The judge was ahead of the politicians. Just as the Spanish parliament was considering whether to close down the Basque party Batasuna, Baltasar Garzon suspended its activities.

Batasuna has not been shown to participate directly in ETA violence, though the links to the terrorist organization are close and obvious and there is a large overlap of people. The party, which received government money, celebrated dead terrorists as martyrs and made those who had been released from prison honorary citizens of the municipalities it controlled. Batisuna refused to condemn the most cowardly ETA attacks. That was the case at the beginning of the month when a car bomb in Santa Pola tore two people to pieces, including a 6-year-old girl.

Great hatred

There is great hatred of ETA among the Spanish people. To that extent, the ambitious judge has received clear praise for his decision. But people are still wondering how sensible it is politically. Batasuna has gambled away much of its support in the Basque country, and lost a third of its votes in the last elections. But that still means that 10 percent voted for the radical nationalists. The ban means that dozens of elected mayors and thousands of town and village lawmakers -- together with the radicalized rank and file -- have been driven underground where they will be much harder to control. However logical the ban may be in terms of party opinion, it will not help find a solution to the conflict.

BRITAIN

The Guardian, London, Aug. 28: For months, Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeated a mantra. Military action against Iraq is not imminent. We are not yet at the point of decision. We should not get ahead of ourselves. Debate, when it comes, can only take place at some unspecified time in the future. The phrases are familiar. Mr. Blair's mantra was never satisfactory in the first place. But in the light of the debate that has burst out in the United States, Mr. Blair's continuing failure to speak for British and European interests on Iraq has become irresponsible and indefensible.

America's debate is public, intense and high level. If Monday's speech by Vice President Dick Cheney means what it says (which one has to assume it does), the administration has made up its mind to act and now seeks support for war. It follows that Britain has its own choices to make.

Risky proposition

If Mr. Blair stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. over Iraq, he will be putting his government and all his political aspirations at risk. It is time to stop fudging, time to enter the debate, time to speak for Britain's true interests, and time to openly oppose a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. On this issue, it is time for Britain to break publicly with the U.S.

SWEDEN

Sydsvenska Dagbladet, Malmoe, Aug. 26: The World Bank emphasizes that rich countries must open their markets to exports from the developing countries and abolish their agricultural subsidies. The poor countries must strengthen the political institutions and the rights of possession. The delegates in Johannesburg should devote their time and energy to this. For the sake of the environment and the fight against poverty.

But the prospects could have been better. The EU prefers to talk about other things. And U.S. President George Bush has declined the invitation. That's bad.

Winking at problems

But it is just as bad if the summit would wink at the problems that many of the Third World's leaders themselves are responsible for: corruption, oppression and economic misgovernment.

JAPAN

Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 28: This summit is important to the sub-Sahara nations of Africa afflicted with poverty and armed conflict. African nations have been left behind in economic globalization, largely because they get less aid from the developed world as their strategic importance has diminished since the end of the Cold War and because of low prices for raw materials.

Developed nations must increase economic assistance and open their market to the developing nations. Beyond that, however, there is no way to help those "basket case" countries whose leaders have given up halfway into the process of nation-building and are preoccupied with power struggles.

Development models

Democracy and economic development should not necessarily have Western nations as the sole model. African nations, bringing together people of many ethnic backgrounds, should have their own development models.

Rather than wait for external pressure, the people of Africa need to do all they can to eradicate bad governance.

ISRAEL

Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv, Aug. 26: The hope that the agreement on a cease-fire reached last week between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was the beginning of the end of the era of violence and an opening toward a political track has given way in recent days to another measure of disappointment.

Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who claimed credit for the new policy under which the IDF would withdraw step by step, decided to postpone the next step -- a withdrawal from Hebron -- "at least until after the (upcoming Jewish) holidays." Ben-Eliezer explains the delays by citing the large number of alerts about preparations for attacks inside Israel.

On the other hand, the Palestinians claim that they understood from their Israeli interlocutors that pressure by the settlers and their representatives in the government are the reason for the delay.

Temporary move?

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon scoffed at the significance of the plan known as "Gaza and Bethlehem First," and made clear it was nothing more than a temporary move of a few military vehicles from the heart of Bethlehem to its outskirts. Such statements by Sharon do not serve the Israeli interest to strengthen the moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority's leadership, who show interest in consolidating the cease-fire despite reservations by many in the Palestinian public. Sharon's statement also raised doubts in world capitals about just how interested he is in the plan, which is supposed to lead to a renewal of the political track.

The government -- through its deeds and failures -- is not giving any chance for calming the territories. Evacuating isolated settlements and shortening the lines the IDF has to protect aren't even on the agenda. There is obviously nobody in the Sharon government thinking about quitting the territories, which is necessary to reach genuine reconciliation with the Palestinians.

At the very least it could have been hoped that the government would not postpone until "after the holidays" the necessary steps for a cease-fire. But it seems that even that limited hope has no chance with the current government.




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