The New Zealand Herald, Auckland, Jan. 24: The White House has been quietly lowering expectations for the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. The poll, rather than delivering democracy to grateful Iraqis -- and being the catalyst for the democratisation of the Arab world -- is now being cast as the first of a number of steps along that path. Regrettably, however, even that has become an unrealistic expectation. A national assembly that is not representative of the people of Iraq will never be able to claim legitimacy, and, therefore, will not be in a position to draft a legitimate constitution.
It is now clear that most of the 20 percent Sunni Muslim minority will obey leading Sunni clerics and politicians and boycott the vote. The Americans' refusal to postpone the poll virtually guaranteed that. For others in the community, which has dominated Iraq for the past century, voting was never an issue; they are in revolt. The escalating violence being orchestrated by these Sunni militants will further discredit the election result by persuading many Iraqis to stay away from polling stations.
The Bush administration somehow sees the rising violence as justification for proceeding with the vote. Get it over now before the going gets too tough seems to be its line of thinking. It is a silly notion, given that the chance for fair elections evaporated some time ago. Postponement became the sensible option once that stage was reached. As it is, the vote will present the Arab world with a miserable representation of democracy; so abject that former Secretary of State Colin Powell talked of a successful election being one where most of the population had "gotten a chance to vote." A turnout of more than half of eligible voters will, it seems, make the poll highly acceptable in American eyes.
The Star, Johannesburg, Jan. 26: The impending threat of military action against Iran by the United States will surely mean the end of the Anglo-American coalition. This week British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was quick to head to the White House to quash any speculation of military action. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party face national elections in May with the opposition Conservative Party not too far behind in the opinion polls. Any forays in Iran could therefore cost Blair dearly on the home front.
The signals from Downing Street have clearly favoured a diplomatic solution, with Britain offering to join France and Germany in spearheading negotiations with Iran. Across the Atlantic, although "the leader of the free world" has won a second term, the Bush administration can ill afford to create a third war zone with their forces still battling to bring stability to Iraq and to a lesser extent Afghanistan.
The dollar has also suffered huge setbacks and the cost of going to war has impacted dramatically on the economic welfare of ordinary Americans.
The scars of 9/11 are starting to heal and the world will not sympathize with unfounded incursions into sovereign countries. All around, the will of their people should override any gung-ho notions of going to war.
El Pais, Madrid, Jan. 26: It is our duty to learn lessons from natural catastrophes. Hopefully we are doing just that following the most recent destructive tsunami, the underwater earthquake that, a month ago, devastated 11 countries in Asia and left an estimated 280,000 dead or missing. The first of these lessons is that, though the calamity can never be completely avoided, science and technological advances do help mitigate them. In this case, if there were a seismic alert center in the region, many lives could have been saved.
Center in Asia
In all the world there exists only one prevention center, in the Pacific, where the most seismic activity is observed. Still, the earthquake of this past Christmas demands, as the scientific community recommended last week in Kobe, Japan, that a seismic monitoring center be created in in Asia. And it would not be a waste that they are created in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. It would be technically possible to get them operative in no more than 18 months. Japan, which tops the list of donors at $500 million (Spain finds itself in fifth place, and third in Europe), has promised to bear the burden of at least half of the project itself.
Corriere della Sera, Milan, Jan. 26: We ask ourselves when human life begins, if we can talk about life two days after fertilization or we have to wait until the end of the second week to mention it, if the embryo is actually or only potentially an individual: this is all being discussed.
When is it that the embryo is a sentient being? We don't know with certainty, but it is difficult to imagine that such a state is possible before the appearance of the traces of a nervous system, which forms around the fourteenth day after fertilization.
From the biological point of view, there is no real discontinuity in the idea of birth. This does not mean that one cannot set a definite limit, such as when we decided that an 18-year-old child is considered an adult. Nothing particular happens at the age of 18, but convention set the limit. We need to take our own responsibilities and set the limit again.