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

In Ghana, where President Clinton stopped Monday at the start of his six nation African tour, the Daily Graphic called this maiden visit to the country by a U.S. president "a victory for all Ghanaians, irrespective of political belief and social status or other criteria." Urging "all our people to take active and positive part in welcoming our august visitor," it boasted that the Clinton administration had acknowledged the country's "remarkable achievements" in embracing democracy and free market economics.


In Nigeria, shunned by Clinton because of its military dictatorship and human rights record, the independent daily Post Express, which opposes the dictatorship, reported an attack on the United States by a special adviser to head of state Gen. Sani Abacha. In his statement titled "No to Coercive Democracy," Alhaji Wada Nas condemned Susan Rice, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, for saying the United States would not accept the emergence of any military official as Nigerian president in forthcoming elections. He said that if Abacha were to contest the elections, "he would not be violating any known Nigerian law or international norm." Nigeria, he said, "needs no country to rewrite its laws or disenfranchise its military men as second class citizens." In an editorial welcoming Pope John Paul II to Nigeria, the PostExpress urged the pontiff "to plead the cause of political and other detainees," which he duly did.

In Uganda, the U.S. president's second stop, the daily New Vision reported on a government news conference before the visit, at which the Ugandan Minister for Presidential Affairs Amama Mbabazi was asked if opposition leaders would meet Clinton. "Not likely," the minister replied. "They did not contact us." In South Africa, the Johannesburg Star told Clinton in an editorial Monday that he would be confronted in Uganda with "a bizarre no-party system of government that outlaws political activities and stifles human rights." It added, "Although the US was the first Western country to criticise the system, warning of far-reaching regional and international consequences, the warmth demonstrated by Washington over the past few years shows considerable tolerance."

In London, the Financial Times ran an editorial urging Clinton to offer "greater US support for the World Bank-led initiative to reduce the debt of the poorest countries, and backing for African governments' plans to put the money into health and education." But it also urged him to do "some frank talking" to African leaders about reducing bureaucracy, curbing corruption, and expanding privatization. In Paris, Le Monde devoted a full page Sunday to background on the president's African tour, with an article from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on weak U.S. investment--compared with French, Japanese, British, and Swiss investment--in West Africa. It said the limited U.S. presence "is explained above all by ignorance" (U.S. businessmen assume--wrongly--that all countries in the region are as uninhabitable as Nigeria). La Stampa of Turin, Italy, gave the president's African tour one paragraph on Page 9 under the headline "Clinton in Africa to forget Sexygate."

The French press was dominated by the political pact between part of the country's respectable political right and the racist National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen, which could make Le Pen president of Southern France's largest region, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. This was deplored in LeMonde and Libération but even more strongly in the liberal press in Britain, where the Sunday Observer called it "a pact with the Devil" and a "grave danger to democracy." In similar vein, the Independent said, "It is a decision of great moment not just for France but for the whole of Europe because whatever they decide, the situation is a warning of the sinister forces which stand ready to exploit arrogant, bureaucratic and remote European institutions in bad economic times."

Dublin's Sunday Independent published a full-page farewell profile of U.S. Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, who has announced she will retire in July at age 70. Under the headline "A very Irish ambassador," the newspaper said that, despite her hotline to the White House and her friendship with the leaders of Sinn Fein, she had not been central to the launching of the peace process in Northern Ireland but had been used "to take the flak," while Clinton, Anthony Lake, Nancy Soderberg, and Ulster Social Democrat leader John Hume "worked away quietly" behind the scenes. "She was always something of a loose cannon, not much given to bureaucratic niceties or diplomatic protocols," the newspaper added.

On their front pages, the Daily Telegraph of London and La Repubblica of Rome reported respectively that the nightingale in Britain and the swallow in Italy are heading toward extinction. El País of Madrid, Spain, called for U.N.-style international intervention in natural disasters such as the Amazon forest fires. Le Figaro of Paris highlighted the world's growing water crisis, saying the number of people without enough water to drink will rise from the current 1.5 billion to 2 billion in the year 2050. It reported French President Jacques Chirac's proposal at a UNESCO conference in Paris for the establishment of an international water academy.