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Voice of America, 00-02-08

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://gopher.voa.gov>


CONTENTS

  • [01] CYPRUS TALKS (L ONLY) BY LISA SCHLEIN (GENEVA)
  • [02] CROATIA - PRESIDENT (L) BY RON PEMSTEIN (ZAGREB)
  • [03] CROATIA / MESIC PROFILE BY RON PEMSTEIN (ZAGREB)
  • [04] NORTHERN IRELAND (L-ONLY) BY LAURIE KASSMAN (LONDON)
  • [05] NORTHERN IRELAND - I-R-A WEAPONS BY ANDRE DE NESNERA (WASHINGTON)
  • [06] NY ECON WRAP (S&L) BY ELAINE JOHANSON (NEW YORK)
  • [07] TUESDAY'S EDITORIALS BY ANDREW GUTHRIE (WASHINGTON)

  • [01] CYPRUS TALKS (L ONLY) BY LISA SCHLEIN (GENEVA)

    DATE=2/8/2000
    TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
    NUMBER=2-258941
    CONTENT=
    VOICED AT:

    INTRO: Peace talks for Cyprus are failing to make progress on efforts to reunify the divided island. But, as Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva, leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities on Cyprus have agreed to meet again in May in New York.

    TEXT: U-N mediator Alvaro De Soto refuses to get into the substance of the talks. The most he will say is that the process is on track. He says the two sides worked in what he calls a constructive manner and explored in greater depth the issues before them. Mr. De Soto met separately throughout the past week- and-a-half with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Greek President Glafcos Clerides. The U-N mediator says he is upset because the two sides did not observe a U-N imposed blackout on the talks and engaged in a war of words outside the negotiating room. But he says that in the end, that did not matter very much.

    /// DE SOTO ACT ONE ///

    We would have preferred that these public statements had not been made. That would have been our preference. Having said this, they did not affect the course of the talks. No meetings were shortened or cancelled or postponed as a result.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. De Soto held seven separate meetings with each side. He says the talks focused on four core issues linked to the establishment of a proposed federation of the divided island -- security, the borders of the two communities, the sharing of power, and the return of refugees including compensation for lost property. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island to keep it from being unified with Greece. Turkey is the only country that recognizes the Turkish-Cypriot government. Mr. De Soto says he is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the peace process. But, he says there is reason to believe that Greece and Turkey are well poised to help break the negotiating deadlock.

    /// DE SOTO ACT TWO ///

    The improving of the climate in relations between and Greece and Turkey give grounds for hope. Perhaps hope is a better word. We hope that this will be reflected in the proximity talks. What we can simply say now is that the talks remain on track.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. De Soto says issues surrounding the long-standing dispute are complex and difficult, and will not be resolved anytime soon. He says achieving a comprehensive settlement on Cyprus will take time and considerable patience. (SIGNED)
    NEB/LS/JWH/RAE 08-Feb-2000 09:01 AM EDT (08-Feb-2000 1401 UTC)
    NNNN
    Source: Voice of America

    [02] CROATIA - PRESIDENT (L) BY RON PEMSTEIN (ZAGREB)

    DATE=2/7/2000
    TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
    NUMBER=2-258929
    CONTENT=
    VOICED AT:

    INTRO: Stipe Mesic has been elected as Croatia's second president, succeeding the late Franjo Tudjman who died in December. Ron Pemstein reports from Zagreb that Mr. Mesic's victory was decisive.

    TEXT: The last president of the former Yugoslavia has been elected overwhelmingly as Croatia's second president. The 65-year old Mr. Mesic defeated Drazen Budisa winning 56-percent of the vote. He won in every part of the country except the Adriatic coast. As he lifted his champagne glass, Mr. Mesic, speaking here through an interpreter, promised to end Croatia's isolation from European politics brought about by the authoritarian ways of President Tudjman.

    /// MESIC ACT IN CROATIAN W/ INTERPRETER ///

    We want to convince the world that Croatia is a part of Europe and that Europe exists in Croatia as well. I hope to organize cooperation very quickly because from isolation politics, Croatia has seen only damage.

    /// END ACT //

    Mr. Mesic will be sworn into office on February 18th. His defeated rival, Mr. Budisa, agrees with Mr. Mesic on most policies, especially about Croatia joining the European Union and NATO as soon as possible. Both men had promised to reduce Croatia's financial support of a separate Croat entity in neighboring Bosnia. Mr. Budisa remains the head of the Social Liberal Party and will have a seat in the Croatian parliament. He says through an interpreter he hopes President Mesic will cooperate on political and economic reforms with the government that took office last week.

    /// BUDISA ACT IN CROATIAN W/ INTERPRETER ///

    I congratulate Mr. Mesic on his election victory, on the responsible duty given to him by voters. I believe that Mr. Mesic will closely cooperate with the government, with the parliament, and that together we will achieve the political program that we promised to voters.

    /// END ACT ///

    One of the reforms the government has in mind is to change Croatia's constitution to reduce the powers of the president and to turn Croatia into a parliamentary democracy. Mr. Mesic says he supports those changes, noting his small Croatian National Party is one of the six parties in the government coalition. At the same time he wants to represent Croatia abroad. He says his first trip will be to Brussels to emphasize Croatia's desire to be a candidate for European Union membership. He also plans an early visit to Sarajevo to drive home his desire to see the Bosnian peace process succeed. Mr. Mesic was an ally of President Tudjman in winning Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia but later left the government - disagreeing with President Tudjman's attempts to create a separate Croat state within Bosnia. He has pledged publicly to have Croatia cooperate with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. A supporter of Mr. Budisa, Prime Minister Ivica Racan, once called Mr. Mesic a smiling Tudjman, referring to his witty personality and to his former alliance with the late president. A victorious Mr. Mesic says he now wants to bring a smile to the Prime Minister's face. (Signed) NEB/RP/TVM/gm 07-Feb-2000 20:54 PM EDT (08-Feb-2000 0154 UTC)
    NNNN
    Source: Voice of America

    [03] CROATIA / MESIC PROFILE BY RON PEMSTEIN (ZAGREB)

    DATE=2/8/2000
    TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT
    NUMBER=5-45400
    CONTENT=
    VOICED AT:

    INTRO: Croatia has elected 65-year-old Stipe Mesic to be the country's second president since independence from Yugoslavia. Mr. Mesic was the last president of the former Yugoslavia's collective presidency and served as one of Croatia's leading politicians until he left the government in a disagreement with Croatia's first president, the late Franjo Tudjman. V-O-A's Ron Pemstein in Zagreb reports on the career and policies of Croatia's leader.

    TEXT: Croatia's new president saw his early political career end up in prison. As a student leader and a representative to the local parliament, Stipe Mesic took part in the 1971 demonstrations against Yugoslavia's communist authorities in the nationalist uprising known as the "Croatian Spring." In an interview with V-O-A, the crewcut and bearded Mr. Mesic says through an interpreter that an independent republic of Croatia was not his goal in 1971.

    /// MESIC ACT ONE - IN CROATIAN W/ INTERPRETER ///

    The maximum we thought we could gain at that time was to have a confederation inside the country, the former Yugoslavia.

    /// END ACT ///

    Twenty-years later, a confederation within Yugoslavia became the subject of serious discussion. As a leading member of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, Stipe Mesic was named as Croatia's representative on Yugoslavia's rotating presidency. But Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic sought to block Mr. Mesic from exercising any power in that position. And Mr. Mesic says any discussion of confederation in 1991 became useless.

    /// MESIC ACT TWO - IN CROATIAN W/ INTERPRETER ///

    It was very evident that Milosevic did not want either confederative or federative Yugoslavia. He did not want Yugoslavia in that sense anymore and he was planning the war for an ethnically- clean Greater Serbia. That was his goal. So the only option for us was the independence.

    /// END ACT ///

    In Belgrade, Mr. Mesic tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the Yugoslav Army to stop the war in Croatia. His role in those events in 1991 became an issue in this year's presidential election campaign. Mr. Mesic used his service as President of Yugoslavia to remind voters of his executive experience. His opponent, Drazen Budisa, tried to turn that experience against Mr. Mesic by reminding voters that his opponent was President of Yugoslavia at a time when the Yugoslav Army was capturing one-third of Croatian territory. Mr. Mesic resigned as the Yugoslav president at the end of 1991 and became the president of independent Croatia's parliament. At this point, his popularity was second only to Croatia's first president, Franjo Tudjman. Another election issue Mr. Budisa used against Mr. Mesic was his loyalty to President Tudjman long after it became clear Croatia was intervening in attempts to split Bosnia-Herzegovina along ethnic lines. Mr. Mesic contends President Tudjman did not take his advice. This attitude was ridiculed in a newspaper here which published a cartoon of Mr. Mesic allegedly saying - I was President Tudjman's right hand man, unfortunately, he was using his left hand. By 1994, Mr. Mesic resigned from the Croatian Democratic Union and was removed as President of Parliament. He says President Tudjman's constant interference in Bosnia was the issue.

    /// MESIC ACT THREE - IN CROATIAN W/INTERPRETER ///

    He constantly refused to stop making plans on the division of Bosnia and he could not understand the new balance of power in the world and in Europe. He was meeting Milosevic constantly, instead of being a person who could unite all those who were being affected by Milosevic's politics.

    /// END ACT ///

    Stipe Mesic faded from the public eye for five-years and did not even win a seat in the new parliament elected in January. But his political style as a relaxed, witty presidential candidate who loved to meet and joke with people shot him to the top of the opinion polls. He carried the reputation of a Croatian nationalist, but also as a politician who fought the authoritarian style of President Tudjman. Mr. Mesic said publicly that Croatia needs to cooperate with the international War Crimes Tribunal and that it has to reduce financial support for Croats in neighboring Bosnia. He explains why he believes his presidential bid was a success.

    /// MESIC ACT FOUR - IN CROATIAN W/INTERPRETER ///

    The Tudjman politics was the isolation and the division of Bosnia, and my politics is contrary -- the European Union and NATO membership and the full support to Bosnia as an independent, united state.

    /// END ACT ///

    President Mesic will be inaugurated February 18th. He says Sarajevo will be one of the early places he plans to visit, but his first priority is to travel to Brussels to promote Croatia's bid to be considered as a candidate for European Union membership. Meanwhile, the first invitation for Mr. Mesic to visit has come from Croatia's western neighbor, Slovenia. (SIGNED)
    NEB/RDP/JWH/RAE 08-Feb-2000 10:35 AM EDT (08-Feb-2000 1535 UTC)
    NNNN
    Source: Voice of America

    [04] NORTHERN IRELAND (L-ONLY) BY LAURIE KASSMAN (LONDON)

    DATE=2/8/2000
    TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
    NUMBER=2-258952
    CONTENT=
    VOICED AT:

    INTRO: Britain's House of Commons is pushing through legislation that would suspend Northern Ireland's power-sharing assembly at the end of the week. The threat comes after a deadlock on paramilitary disarmament. Correspondent Laurie Kassman has more from London.

    TEXT: The House of Commons is working on the legislation to suspend the assembly while officials in London, Dublin, and Belfast are working feverishly to prevent that. British Prime Minister Tony Blair met (Tuesday) with Gerry Adams, who heads Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. Mr. Blair wants the I- R-A to clarify its position on disarming before the May deadline. Gerry Adams described the talks as serious and focussed, but said suspending the peacetime assembly will send the wrong signal to Northern Ireland. He warned against caving into what he called pro-British Unionist threats.

    /// ADAMS ACT // OPT ACT ///

    If the institutions are collapsed around us it would seem to be that the British government places no value in this, no value in these institutions.

    // END ACT // END OPT //

    // OPT //

    Mr. Adams warns that suspending the assembly sends the wrong signal to Northern Ireland.

    // ADAMS SECOND ACT //

    My appeal to all concerned is to stick by their obligations - is not to be spooked or be in any way diverted from the implementation of the agreement and not to suspend the institutions.

    /// END ACT // END OPT ///

    The latest crisis over I-R-A disarming was sparked by a Unionist demand for progress on the arms issue by the end of January. But the special international commission dealing with disarmament reported no I-R-A gesture in that direction. Unionist Party leader David Trimble - who also heads the power-sharing government - threatened to resign. He says words are not enough. He wants a concrete I- R-A gesture on disarmament. Britain's top official for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, then threatened to suspend the assembly after complaining that disarmament should get under way sooner rather than later, if both sides are serious about peace. But Mr. Mandelson has given both sides this week to try to avoid the disaster. The legislation to suspend the assembly will not be effective until next weekend. Sinn Fein is seeking legal advice on the grounds the British Parliament has no constitutional right to take that action. (SIGNED) NEB/LMK/GE/ENE/RAE 08-Feb-2000 13:47 PM EDT (08-Feb-2000 1847 UTC)
    NNNN
    Source: Voice of America

    [05] NORTHERN IRELAND - I-R-A WEAPONS BY ANDRE DE NESNERA (WASHINGTON)

    DATE=2/8/2000
    TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT
    NUMBER=5-45402
    CONTENT=
    VOICED AT:
    /// EDS: This is the second in a two-part series on the crisis in Northern Ireland. The first was issued on 2/7/00 as BKG. 5-45394 entitled "Northern Ireland - Suspension." ///

    INTRO: The British government has introduced legislation to suspend local government authority in Northern Ireland if the Irish Republican Army does not begin a process of handing over its weapons. In this report, former London correspondent Andre de Nesnera looks at what incentives the I-R-A has to disarm and asks whether the suspension of the government in Northern Ireland may lead to more terrorism by paramilitary groups.

    TEXT: The British government is rushing through both houses of Parliament emergency legislation that could re-institute direct rule over Northern Ireland at week's end. This would mean the suspension of the British province's nine-week-old government and a temporary end to its experience with limited self- rule. The current crisis was sparked by an issue that has been an obstacle for years - the problem known as "decommissioning." In other words, how to get paramilitary groups - such as the Irish Republican Army - to hand in their weapons. A recent report by an international commission - led by retired Canadian general John de Chastelain - looking into the hand-over of weapons has said the I- R-A has failed to make any progress on decommissioning. That prompted David Trimble - leader of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party - to threaten to resign from his post as Northern Ireland's chief executive. And in an effort to prevent that move, the British government has introduced legislation to suspend Northern Ireland's governing institutions - hence the legislation before Parliament. The British and Irish governments are also trying to find a way to prompt the I-R-A into some movement on decommissioning. But as of yet - no positive response from the Irish Republican Army. Brendan O'Leary, Irish expert with the "London School of Economics," says the definition of decommissioning is very broad.

    /// O'LEARY ACT ///

    The paramilitaries are not obligated to surrender any of their weapons to the British government or to the Irish government. They are not even obligated to surrender their weapons to the international commission overseeing decommissioning. They are obligated to engage with the commission and to enable the commission to verify weapons destruction has taken place. And that is to take place - it is envisaged - with other steps taken by the British government, some of which have already occurred - police reform - some of which are in the process of occurring - the removal of troops and the reduction in the number of troops and the eventual withdrawal of all troops to Britain.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. O'Leary says "decommissioning" must be seen as a process of multilateral disarmament rather than simply a hand-over of guns, bullets and explosives. But what incentive does the I-R-A have to move toward disarmament? Experts say if the paramilitary group does not take positive steps to disarm, then its political wing - Sinn Fein - could be forced out of Northern Ireland's government and would lose two ministerial posts. Historian Brendan O'Brien, author of the book "The Long War," says that is a powerful stimulus.

    /// O'BRIEN ACT ///

    So the incentive, if you like, for the I-R-A, is that if they don't go the route of at least dealing seriously with the de Chastelain commission on decommissioning, then the whole republican movement stands to go back to the barricade - to become a protest organization, and to be isolated from nationalism and probably the White House (Washington). And they will have another hill to climb. Whereas as of now, some serious engagement on decommissioning would enhance Sinn Fein's standing internationally - and nationally - and embed them further into the political institutions in the North and give them a greater sense of gaining seats in the Irish Parliament. And they would be on a kind of political roll that they appeared to be on before this hiatus was thrown up.

    /// End Act ///

    In the meantime, the British government is going ahead with plans to suspend Northern Ireland's government. Mr. O'Brien does not believe the I-R-A would go back to violence if suspension occurs. But the threat does come from splinter groups such as the "Continuity I-R- A" responsible for the bombing of a hotel in Northern Ireland (Irvinestown) a few days ago. Noel Doran is deputy editor of Belfast's daily, "The Irish Times," espousing the views of the nationalist community that would like to see a united Ireland.

    /// DORAN ACT ///

    What we have to worry about is some of the dissident groups on the republican side who are not part of the mainstream republican movement and - although they are very small - have the capacity to launch attacks. We also have worries about the loyalist (pro-British paramilitary groups) side who have maintained their weaponry despite engaging in cease-fires. The crucial difference being that the loyalists and their political representatives are not in government and the republicans are.

    /// END ACT ///

    Mr. Doran says one cannot say for sure that violence will not return to Northern Ireland. But he says at this stage, there is no enthusiasm to go back to the days of the gun, the bullet and the bomb. Instead, he says everyone is focusing on political efforts to get paramilitary groups - beginning with the I-R-A - to start the process of decommissioning. (Signed)
    NEB/ADEN/JP 08-Feb-2000 12:23 PM EDT (08-Feb-2000 1723 UTC)
    NNNN
    Source: Voice of America

    [06] NY ECON WRAP (S&L) BY ELAINE JOHANSON (NEW YORK)

    DATE=2/8/2000
    TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
    NUMBER=2-258956
    CONTENT=
    VOICED AT:

    INTRO: U-S stock prices rallied today (Tuesday), as new data suggest the U-S economy might be able to keep growing without generating inflation. V-O-A correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York:

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average went up 51 points, less than one-half of one percent, closing at 10-thousand-957. The blue chips are still about six percent below their record high in mid-January. The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 18 points. The big rally was in the technology sector - again. The Nasdaq composite crossed over the 44-hundred level for the first time, with a gain of over two percent - another record high closing. The latest data on the U-S economy shows worker productivity is way up, with no signs of inflation. Productivity rose five percent in the last quarter - its best performance in seven years - while labor costs were down.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    This helped ease fears that interest rates will go up more than expected. Economist David Jones is among those who revised his forecast of future rate hikes by the Federal Reserve Board:

    /// JONES ACT ///

    I was forecasting, before these productivity numbers, that the "Fed" (Federal Reserve central bank) would have to hike rates in three quarter- point steps - maybe as many as four - in the first half of this year. I would pull back to guessing that we'll have two quarter-point hikes. The one in February we've already seen. Maybe another one in March or May.

    /// END ACT ///

    /// END OPT ///

    Financial and banking stocks rallied on the economic news. American Express, J-P Morgan and Citigroup shares were up.

    /// REST OPT ///

    Tobacco stocks were sharply down, with Phillip Morris at a five-year low. The companies are being hit with another class-action lawsuit - this one by cigarette wholesalers charging the tobacco companies with price- fixing. (signed) NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/JP 08-Feb-2000 16:50 PM EDT (08-Feb-2000 2150 UTC)
    NNNN
    Source: Voice of America

    [07] TUESDAY'S EDITORIALS BY ANDREW GUTHRIE (WASHINGTON)

    DATE=2/8/2000
    TYPE=U-S EDITORIAL DIGEST
    NUMBER=6-11671
    EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS
    TELEPHONE=619-3335
    CONTENT=

    INTRO: Scanning the editorial pages of some American papers this Tuesday, the ruins of Grozny, the Chechen capital stare out at you. Several commentators deplore the brutality displayed during Russia's military conquest of the breakaway Chechen republic. Another topic still receiving much attention is the riole of the extreme right-wing Freedom Party in Austria's new governing coalition. Rounding out the most recurring themes are comments on President Clinton's proposal for the next U-S budget; the rising price of oil; a Russian oil tanker in trouble in the Gulf; rebuilding the Panama Canal; and the perils of expanding aid to Colombia. Now, here is ________ with a closer look and some examples in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: A stark photograph of the ruins of Grozny, taken by Dmitry Belyakov of the Associated Press, appeared on the front pages of many U-S papers Monday. Today (Tuesday) it is reprinted in the editorial column of The Washington Post. The Post seldom does that, but the picture, showing the utter destruction of a main thoroughfare in Grozny, is akin to a watercolor of hell. The Post then comments:

    VOICE: Russian leaders announced with pride Sunday that their armed forces had captured Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, five months into their war to subdue that rebellious province. Reports from the battle zone suggested that the Russians had not so much liberated the city as destroyed it. ... Grozny resembles nothing so much as Stalingrad, reduced to rubble by Hitler's troops before the Red Army inflicted a key defeat that Russian schoolchildren still celebrate. ... All in all, this is not likely to be a victory ... Russian schoolchildren will celebrate generations hence.

    TEXT: The Post's view is repeated almost verbatim in today's New York Times, which then suggests:

    VOICE: It did not have to be this way. ... The Kremlin at one point said it would work with moderate Chechen leaders to strengthen the uneasy peace that followed the 1994-1996 conflict ... that gave Chechnya near-autonomy. But it is clear that preventing Chechen terrorism was never the Kremlin's primary purpose. ... The central aims were to avenge Russia's military defeat in 1996 and to lift the political fortunes of Vladimir Putin, the prime minister who became acting president when Boris Yeltsin resigned...

    TEXT: The recent inclusion of a potentially pro-Nazi party in Austria's latest coalition government continues to draw comment. In Connecticut's capital, The Hartford Courant urges a wait-and-see stance, though calling the condemnation so far "understandable."

    VOICE: The world must wait and see what the People's Party-Freedom Party government does before taking further action against Austria. For now, the warnings may have been enough.

    TEXT: Pennsylvania's Greensburg Tribune-Review feels the European Union and Israel, with their diplomatic sanctions, have already gone too far. Objecting to what it calls the "one-world governance" style of the E-U, it proclaims:

    VOICE: The E-U, the United States and nations the world over can treat Austria any way they please. But Austria, a sovereign nation, has the right to implement the government for which its people have voted and the coalition compromise their leaders have forged. Allowing anything less really is no more acceptable than the abhorrent past that the newest members of Austria's governing cabinet have clearly renounced.

    /// OPT ///

    Such is the tawdry stuff of "one-world governance." The cynics have been right all along.

    TEXT: The Atlanta Constitution, noting that Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider has apologized for his pro- Nazi and pro-Hitler remarks, sniffs:

    VOICE: ... [Mr.] Haider's word isn't worth much. Last weekend, for instance, no sooner had he signed a declaration forced on him by Austrian President Thomas Klestil in which [Mr.] Haider had to denounce xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism than he repudiated the declaration as "an affront to the Austrian public." ... He also caused a ripple of fear in Vienna by hinting that [President] Klestil should be investigated for treason. Why should the West be concerned over Austria? Partly because it never came to grips with its Nazi past, as Germany had to...

    TEXT: And in our Pacific Ocean state, Hawaii, Honolulu's Star-Bulletin looks to recent history to reassure the West:

    VOICE: Austria weathered an earlier controversy related to the Hitler era when Kurt Waldheim, the former United Nations secretary- general, was elected president in 1986. As a German army officer in World War Two, he was accused of having given the orders that led to the massacre of Yugoslav partisans. That was a much more shocking case than [Mr.] Haider, but the West survived [Mr.] Waldheim, as it will Haider. ... The democratic process sometimes produces unwelcome results. There is no reason to panic over this one.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: The key domestic issue drawing comment this Tuesday is Bill Clinton's final budget proposal sent to Congress. It proposes to spend one-trillion-840- billion dollars on a variety of current and some new programs. The Philadelphia Inquirer, calling it the "last tango in [Washington] D-C," adds: [Mr.] Clinton's final budget seeks to charm voters with a mix of wisdom and wishful thinking.

    VOICE: Yet his plan would also wisely get rid of three-trillion-700-billion dollars in federal debt over the next 13 years. He premises this on a mix of restraint (no broad tax cuts) and naivete (no more recessions) that seems to flummox the Republicans.

    TEXT: The Los Angeles Times calls it a "wish list budget," adding:

    VOICE: ... President Clinton seems to have a federal spending initiative for most problems, from tasteless food to bad weather. Most will, and should, fall victim to deliberations in Congress. But to the extent the budget addresses the country's significant long-term goals -- funding Medicare and paying down debt - - it is on the right track.

    TEXT: The substantial rise in oil prices in the United States is prompting both political debate and comment in several editorials, including this one from USA Today, the national daily published outside Washington. While some in Congress want the government to dip into its strategic petroleum reserve to pressure prices lower, the paper disagrees.

    VOICE: So far the administration has resisted, saying the market should set prices. That's the right response. If history is any indication, today's painful cost hikes will be followed by falling prices, even without any help from Washington.

    TEXT: Still on the topic of petroleum, the boarding of a Russian oil tanker by the U-S Navy to check if it was carrying smuggled Iraqi oil draws the attention of a foreign-affairs writer (Holger Jensen) at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver [Colorado]. He says the incident points up the fact that "tyrants fatten on sanctions while their subjects slowly starve."

    VOICE: New year, old problems. Navy Seals boarded a Russian tanker smuggling Iraqi oil out of the Persian Gulf, which explains how Saddam Hussein continues to enrich himself while his people suffer the effects of an economic embargo intended to topple him. ... The Russians will get their tanker back and Saddam will remain comfortably in power, his bank accounts hardly dented. Besides Russian tankers, ships flying many other flags help Saddam circumvent sanctions. ... The value of the smuggled oil, at current prices, is more than three-million dollars a day. It's a safe bet that little of this is used to benefit the Iraqi people.

    TEXT: In this hemisphere, there is a plea from The San Francisco Chronicle to rebuild the Panama Canal to modern standards, before the narrow waterway becomes totally obsolete.

    VOICE: ... The canal ... [is] in danger of becoming a dinosaur. One of the wonders of the modern age, it was completed just before World War One, and designed to handle the Navy's biggest war wagons [battleships]. Time has changed this vision. Nowadays, the real battle is world trade, and the canal may be overtaken by a new waver of super-ships too big to fit through the ... locks [which are 33-point-five meters wide]. Vessels now wait at each end of the isthmus, a delay that will grow as trade increases. ... The canal is committed to one- billion dollars [worth of] improvements ... but it may not be enough.

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: As for U-S politics, the state of Delaware is holding its Republican Partry primary election today, and The News Journal in Wilmington is urging people to vote.

    VOICE: There is more excitement among Republicans because most of the four remaining candidates have campaigned here. ... The weather is expected to be sunny and a relatively balmy [2] degrees [celsius]. So there's no barrier there. Will Republicans manifest the increasing apathy we see in Delaware voters? We hope not. A vote in the primary is ... important ...and shouldn't be ignored.

    TEXT: In Michigan, The Detroit News is endorsing Arizona Senator John McCain today over presumed front- runner George W. Bush, proposing that Mr. McCain is:

    VOICE: Better qualified and more experienced than [Governor] Bush.

    TEXT: The endorsements follows a lengthy interview with Senator McCain by the paper's editorial board, in advance of Michigan's primary election later this month. Elsewhere in the Midwest, The Milwaukee Journal professes total boredom with the news that Hillary Clinton has officially entered the New York race for Senator.

    VOICE: New Yorkers are supposed to love political fights, but a lot of them are going to have to work extra hard to gin up [develop] any interest in this year's Senate fight between presumed Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, who finally got around Sunday to officially announcing her candidacy. ... At this point, how many people in New York or anywhere really care what [Mr.] Giuliani, who is mayor of New York City, and [Mrs.] Clinton ... say about each other or anything else?

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Lastly, today's Chicago Tribune worries that the current U-S plan to dramatically increase financial and other aid to Colombia to combat drug trafficking may be a mistake.

    VOICE: Skepticism -- always a healthy thing both in journalism and in government -- is said to be growing in Washington among drug- enforcement and military officials about the Clinton administration's proposed one-point-six- billion-dollar aid package for Colombia. And a good thing, too, if true. For there is plenty of room for doubt and questions about this initiative. ... The aid might, as intended, help the Colombian government turn the tide in its 40-year-war against leftist guerrillas. ... Or it may make no dent, either, in the guerrillas' strength or the drug trade. And in the worst case, it could lead to deep U-S entanglement in a conflict that has "quagmire" written all over it.

    TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of comment from the editorial pages of Tuesday's U-S papers.
    NEB/ANG/WTW 08-Feb-2000 12:17 PM EDT (08-Feb-2000 1717 UTC)
    NNNN
    Source: Voice of America


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