For the first time since NATO started its offensive against Yugoslavia six weeks ago, hope for peace dominated the European press Friday. With the exception of the British and French newspapers–the former all leading on the election of a new Parliament for Scotland, and the latter on France’s troubles in Corsica–papers throughout Western Europe devoted their main front-page headlines to the NATO-Russia peace plan. Die Welt of Germany declared “peace in sight” and La Repubblica of Rome said it was “finally possible to talk of hope;” but the British press was much more wary. The conservative papers, the Daily Telegraph and the Times, and the liberal Guardian all demanded an intensification of the war.
Under the headline “Give War a Chance,” the Times’ editorial said the “general principles” agreed by G-8 foreign ministers in Germany “are not principles at all. … At best, they may be understood as diplomatic circumlocutions, designed to ease Russia’s political dilemma in the Balkans and thus avert further frictions with Moscow,” it said. “The Alliance is nearing the point where Serb forces have been so damaged that NATO troops could be committed at acceptable risk. It has never been clearer that the best prospect for a peace worthy of the name is to give war a chance.” The Daily Telegraph said the peace plan could be “a trap for NATO” and that the bombing campaign must continue. The Guardian continued to argue for a land war “to capture Kosovo and turn it into an international protectorate.”
In an op-ed article for the Times, British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that peace could be only on NATO’s terms and that “the corrupt dictatorship of the Milosevic regime must be cast out,” which is still not officially an alliance war aim. He backed Gen. Wesley Clark’s statement earlier in the week that the only way the war would end would be “victory for NATO, defeat for Milosevic, and the reversal of ethnic cleansing.”
On the other hand, the Daily Telegraph’s defense editor, the military historian John Keegan, called for the replacement of Clark as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Lacking Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s “uncompromisingly soldierly manner,” Clark appears “to have fallen under the spell of the State Department, which believes that a combination of diplomatic formulae and the indirect application of military force can achieve desired foreign policy results,” Keegan wrote. He blamed President Clinton “for not appointing a real warlord,” and asked: “Are the peoples of the NATO states, whom the President and the Prime Minister have committed to this lacklustre war not entitled to ask for someone who can match Milosevic in single-mindedness and strength of character?”
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s motive in freeing the moderate Kosovo leader Ibrahim Rugova, who was in Rome this week for talks with the Italian government, generated much perplexity in the European press. In Albania, the independent daily Koha Jone described it Thursday as “one of the most interesting developments in the Kosovo crisis since the start of the NATO airstrikes” and part of a Milosevic “peace offensive” for softening up the allies. Milosevic might also be wanting to strengthen Rugova’s international standing against the more militant Kosovar politicians who have gained the upper hand since the Rambouillet agreement.
In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald Friday welcomed the U.N.-brokered agreement on self-determination for the people of East Timor but expressed doubts about the policing of next August’s referendum by the Indonesian army, “which invaded East Timor, forcibly annexed the territory, and has maintained a policy of brutal pacification” there. But the paper saw hope in the fact that Jakarta was for the first time allowing U.N. advisers and international observers into the territory. If things do go smoothly, it said in an editorial, “it will represent a victory for commonsense, for years of patient international diplomacy, but most of all for the courage and determination of the East Timorese people.”
In the run-up to the Israeli election, a Smith Research Center Poll published Friday in the Jerusalem Post showed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still slipping slightly against the Labor leader Ehud Barak, and Center Party leader Yitzhak Mordechai is continuing to decline. The poll put Barak at 49 percent, Netanyahu at 43.5 percent, and Mordechai at 7 percent. Following the dissolution of the Kuwaiti Parliament after a political row over misprints in a new edition of the Koran, the Kuwaiti daily al-Qabas, which is associated with the liberal opposition, said Thursday that it reflects a growing “climate of religious terrorism” in the country.
Columnist Abdellatif al-Duaij wrote that many Kuwaiti members of Parliament supported a no-confidence motion against a government minister on this matter “because they feared that otherwise they would be accused of being insufficiently zealous about religious matters.” “Legislators and government alike felt obliged to make a huge fuss over the misprinted copies of the Koran for fear of being accused of not being concerned enough about God’s Holy Book,” he wrote. “Neither had the courage to say that the matter was unimportant, though they all knew that what had occurred was merely a printing error.”
Several Arab papers also pointed out that the Kuwaiti elections scheduled for July 3 would take place in the height of summer when temperatures would be around 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and most of the emirate’s wealthier citizens would be abroad. The Pan-Arab Al-Hayat said this would create “real problems” for candidates who traditionally erect large tents in which to hold banquets for their electors. The Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat noted that an election in high summer meant these tents would have to be air-conditioned, incurring costs that could deter some potential candidates from running. However, Kuwaiti caterers who have been expecting a summer slump in business are now looking forward to a boom, the paper said.
The front pages of most British papers Friday carried the news that Mohammed Fayed, the controversial Egyptian owner of the Harrods department store in London and the father of Princess Diana’s lover Dodi Fayed, who died with her in the Paris car crash, has had a second application for British citizenship turned down. According to an editorial in the Daily Telegraph, “The decision is cause for collective rejoicing among those who deplore Mr. Fayed’s malevolent influence on our public affairs, particularly his disgraceful claim that the British secret services assassinated Diana, Princess of Wales.”