What the foreign papers are saying.
Feb. 25 1998 3:30 AM

Kofi Annan's successful diplomacy in Baghdad failed to convince many newspapers abroad that the threat of war had been lifted, and pressure on the United States to back down continued across Europe and the Middle East. In Iraq itself, Annan's presence did nothing to inhibit the anti-U.S. rhetoric of the government-controlled press. "UNSCOM is not an international commission directed by the United Nations but an American commission directed by U.S. intelligence services whose orders it executes," said the official daily Al Thawra Sunday. Another Iraqi daily, Babel, which is published by Saddam Hussein's son Uday, said there was no difference between "American imperialism" and "German Nazism." It also accused the United States of hijacking the United Nations and "taking for itself rights that the international community has not accorded it."


In Europe, anti-U.S. opinion remained strongest in France, where the conservative daily Le Figaro said in a front-page editorial Monday that the U.S. double standard in the Middle East--merciless toward Iraq for breaking international commitments but supine toward Israel when it does the same thing--"was bound to scandalize their Arab allies." At the same time, failure to strike Iraq after weeks of warlike rhetoric could have cost the United States its credibility, Le Figaro said, adding that "by saving himself, Saddam Hussein has also saved Bill Clinton." An opinion poll commissioned by the newspaper showed that 55 percent of French citizens wanted France to remain neutral in any U.S. attack on Iraq, but the same percentage thought that the prime objective of any U.S. strike should be "to eliminate Saddam Hussein."

In Israel, the liberal daily Ha'aretz attacked the Israeli government for supplying citizens with gas masks, antibiotics against germ warfare, and various kinds of self-protection advice while at the same time insisting that the risk of an Iraqi attack was remote. In choosing the maximum level of preparedness, it said in an editorial, "the government has dulled the edge of Israel's deterrent capability, has made the possibility of nuclear warfare more tangible, has frightened away tourists, has generated huge expenditures, and has increased doubts as to whether Israel can provide the Jewish people with real security."

London's evening paper, the Evening Standard, was outraged by the photographs of Annan shaking hands with Hussein. Under the headline "Repulsive Handshake," it said in an editorial: "It is the business of the U.N. to conduct evenhanded diplomacy. But to exchange public greetings with a mass murderer accords him a legitimacy which should repel most people." The Israeli weekly Jerusalem Report claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had recently considered putting into operation a secret plan to murder Hussein that was drawn up, then shelved, in 1991. The German weekly Der Spiegel carried a story to the same effect, while Le Monde of Paris reported Sunday on its front page about another plan to murder a dictator (Hitler)--one for which a 25-year-old Swiss man named Maurice Bavaud was decapitated in Berlin in May 1941. Bavaud's martyrdom had been shrouded in silence by the Swiss authorities during the war, but it was now to be commemorated with a plaque on the house in Neuchâtel where he was born.

The conservative Jerusalem Post, owned by the Roman Catholic Canadian media mogul Conrad Black, published an opinion piece titled "The Killing Season," which turned out--only at the end--to be about Northern Ireland. Its author, Oxford historian Bernard Wasserstein, fiercely attacked the "mischievous and irresponsible role" of a certain nation's "diaspora" who, "[k]nowing little of the complexities of the conflict, ... project their insecurities, obsessions, and unfulfilled dreams on to the distant national hearth." The Republican-sympathizing Irish News of Belfast led Monday with the news that Sinn Fein "may spurn chance to re-enter peace talks," but the Irish Times of Dublin quoted Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams as saying he was still "totally wedded" to the peace process.

The Times of London's main editorial Monday, headlined "Japan in the Dock," congratulated the other participants in the Group of Seven finance ministers' meeting in London over the weekend on the "acrimonious" dressing-down they gave the Japanese representative. If new Finance Minister Hikaru Matsunaga "was shocked by the hostility he encountered in London, that shock should be salutary and has come not a moment too soon," the Times added. All the British press speculated Monday on the reason why the British government had intervened to stop Sean Connery's being awarded a knighthood by the queen: Was it his Scottish nationalism, or was it his attitude on violence toward women? The Sunday Telegraph of London reported that Princess Diana's memorial fund is to open an office in New York because of "the strength of interest from America."

The Pioneer of India described the Indian election as "comparatively peaceful," because there were only 11 dead in Bihar, six in Andhra Pradesh, three in West Bengal, and one in Orissa. But in an editorial it deplored the fact that "whether it is enlisting the services of goons ... or terrorising innocent citizens with guns, all methods are deemed to be good as long as, in the perception of the candidate, they lead to his victory."