International Papers

Kissing Outlawed in the British Army

With the outcome of the U.S.-China trade negotiations still unknown, a Northern Ireland political settlement still in the balance, and President Bill Clinton’s planned meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Chechnya still unconsummated, Monday’s papers focused on domestic issues and the latest Turkish earthquake. The Daily Telegraph  of London led its front page with a new sex code for members of the British armed forces. To get around a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against a ban on homosexuals in the military, a ban the country’s military leaders hope to maintain, the British government is reported to be planning to impose new rules proscribing all sexual displays, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

They will restrict “sex, not sexuality” by forbidding touching and other displays of affection across all ranks. The Daily Telegraph reported fears by senior officers that the new code of conduct would damage recruitment and lead to a flood of courts-martial, with service personnel being punished for what in civilian life is perfectly acceptable behavior. In an editorial, the paper toyed with the idea of putting homosexuals into separate units “like the Sacred Band of Thebes,” but said that “a company comprised wholly of homosexuals could easily become a target for the rest of the Army.” “Perhaps, on reflection, the simplest solution is for homosexual soldiers to keep their mouths shut and get on with their jobs.”

The Times of London’s lead story said Northern Ireland Unionist leader David Trimble, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, may have taken “the biggest gamble of his career” by considering entering in government with the Republican Sinn Fein Party–the political wing of the Irish Republican Army–before a single IRA weapon has been handed over. Until now Unionists have insisted that there could be no Catholic-Protestant powersharing in the province until some of the IRA’s illegal weapons were decommissioned. A new critical round of talks resumed Monday in Belfast under the chairmanship of former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

In an editorial, the Times described the re-election of Jacques Diouf as Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome as “a victory for machine politics and cronysim over much-needed reform in one of the oldest world organisations set up to ensure better food supplies for the millions of people around the world who go hungry.” The paper said today there are many better international bodies looking at food supplies and that “Britain should give the FAO six months to review its use of voluntary contributions. If this does not improve, Britain should switch its donations to other bodies and give notice of withdrawal.”

Le Figaro of Paris fronted an interview with the new king of Jordan, Abdullah II, on the day he was beginning a state visit to France originally planned for his late father, King Hussein. In his own words, his main points included: “To invest in Jordan is to invest in peace in the Middle East”; “I belong to a generation that has been educated in the West, which has chosen what is best in both cultures and understands the western world”; “I have never organised any meeting between Israel and Syria. I have limited myself to passing on verbal messages from President Hassad to the US or Ehud Barak”; “Water is a fundamental problem in the Middle East. There should be an international conference to regulate it”; “Most of the 1,200,000 Palestinian refugees in our country will probably want to remain in Jordan.”

With Hillary and Chelsea Clinton already in Istanbul, and Bill Clinton due there from Ankara later this week for a summit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Guardian  of London fronted Monday the claim that the disastrous earthquakes in northwestern Turkey were “a prelude to a cataclysmic strike in Istanbul.” From Duzce, Turkey, the paper reported, “Seismologists at the country’s Kandilli observatory warned that a major fault system had been activated, and that it was only a question of when, not if, the metropolis would be leveled.” In an editorial Monday, the Turkish Daily News said Turks are “thrilled to see the American president as their guest, especially at a time when we are going through some very hard days, having to cope with the national trauma of two successive major killer earthquakes and the never-ending hardships suffered by our masses because of economic crises.”

The paper also noted that Clinton’s five-day visit was “a record for an American head of state and source of satisfaction and pride for all of us.” It urged the United States to encourage greater democracy in Turkey as part of its efforts to promote stability in the country. “In the past we have had bad experiences of how US administrations have pretended to condemn coups in Turkey while they have actively supported them and the juntas,” the paper said. “We are aware that the world has changed and we feel the Clinton administration should give guarantees to the democrats of Turkey that this will never be the case again.”

In Japan, Asahi Shimbun ran an editorial Monday about the Microsoft case, warning about the dangers of official intervention to stop aggressive business practices in high-tech industries. Such intervention could stop the growth of that sector, it said: “In other words, even well-meaning regulations designed to protect consumers could prove counterproductive.” The paper described Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s findings of fact as “of great significance because they point to the shape of antitrust policy in the age of fast-paced, high-tech industries that are moving and shaking the world economy, particularly the US economy.” It added that the high-tech industries have created millions of new jobs in the United States. “No doubt much of the credit for this goes to Microsoft. However, the ruling underscores the need of facilitating market access for newcomers and of respecting consumer interests.”

The problem, the editorial said, is where to draw the line: “The antitrust policy of the past–when national borders blocked free movement of goods and services and when traditional smokestack industries provided the main thrust of industrial growth–no longer holds water. Today moves toward international mergers and acquisitions are picking up momentum in a broad spectrum of industries, such as financial services, communications, automobiles and petroleum. Of course, the situation in these industries is different from that in the developing computer software industry. But they all face a common question: how to balance the demands of oligopoly and the interests of the consumer.”