What the foreign papers are saying.
March 14 1998 3:30 AM

Clint Eastwood was the hero of the French press this week. Celebrating the release in France of his Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Libération devoted no less than its first four pages to him Wednesday, while Le Monde ran an article and an interview the next day headlined "Clint Eastwood, Free Man." Both papers portrayed him as a rare independent spirit in Hollywood. Libération filled its front page with a scowling Clint under the headline "The Eastwood Case."


Amid the deepening Kosovo crisis, 19-year-old Aldona Elezi was crowned Miss Albania in Tirana this week in the country's first national beauty contest since 1995, the Albanian Daily News reported Wednesday. The runner-up, Johana Gega, recently celebrated her 14th birthday. The new Miss Albania received $15,000 (Albanian policemen and schoolteachers typically earn $60 to $70 a month) and said she wants to become an actress.

Amid general condemnation of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic over the repression in Kosovo, the conservative Le Figaro of Paris struck a discordant note with a column defending his right to "maintain order" in the province and attacking the economic sanctions decided upon by the Contact Group countries in London this week. Commentator Patrick Besson wrote that the new sanctions were the equivalent of "pushing under water the head of someone who is already drowning," and asked, "This international community, is it you? Is it me? If not, who is it?"

In an op-ed article Wednesday in the Financial Times, columnist Edward Mortimer said that "Saddam and Slobo, the presidents of Iraq and Yugoslavia, are the true architects of the new world order": "It is largely in reaction to them that, by a series of improvisations, the vaunted 'international community' has defined itself." They have obliged the United States--which, after winning the Cold War, would have happily left the rest of the world to its own devices--to continue with "the tiresome business of threatening and using force, deploying troops in faraway places, and cobbling together coalitions." And they had presented the rest of the world with constant dilemmas: "to demand more U.S. leadership or less, to tag along behind the coalition or to risk being labelled accomplices of evil."

The legend of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's triumph in Baghdad underwent further embellishment Wednesday when Le Monde devoted a whole page to a detailed account of the negotiations, attributing a crucial role to Annan's Lanceros de Cohiba cigars. It said that after a sticky first half-hour with the Iraqi president, Annan took two cigars from his pocket and offered him one. Saddam looked him straight in the eye, hesitated for "long" seconds, and then said, "I only smoke with people in whom I have confidence." A moment later, he accepted the cigar.

The Times of London Wednesday published a front-page photograph of J. Paul Getty Jr. in top hat and tails outside Buckingham Palace, where he had been invested with a knighthood by the queen. The newly created Sir Paul, son of the late Texas oil billionaire, recently became a British citizen, and he told the newspaper that he felt "very proud to be British" when he heard "God Save the Queen" being played. "It's my national anthem now," he said. In an editorial, the Times said that after giving away about $320 million to British cultural and other institutions over the past 15 years, Getty had "imperceptibly become an English institution himself." It concluded, "This eccentric knight is a model billionaire."

The Times also announced that its Independent National Directors, a body established when Rupert Murdoch bought the paper to ensure he didn't interfere in its editorial policies, had rejected allegations that he had suppressed criticism of the Chinese regime. But Murdoch came under attack from U.S.-based Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, who told the Daily Telegraph in an interview Wednesday that Murdoch didn't need to kowtow to China to protect his business interests there. "He has at his disposal a wide-ranging publicity and propaganda organ," Wei said. "The Chinese Communist Party should be afraid of him, and not the other way round." The next day Wei was reported as having called British foreign secretary Robin Cook "two-faced" and a "coward" for failing to join him in a photo call and allegedly keeping him away from the press. Despite foreign office denials, the DailyTelegraph in an editorial Thursday said Cook "showed every sign of being browbeaten by the Chinese leadership and dazzled by the potential of its market. So much for an ethical foreign policy."

Leading Thursday with the news of its acquisition by Tony O'Reilly, former chairman of H.J. Heinz Co. and owner of the Irish Independent Newspapers group, the daily Independent of London said it was adopting, for the first time in Britain, an American-style editorial system, with an "editor" in charge of news and an "editor-in-chief" in charge of comment. One of the board members of a new parent company, Independent Newspapers UK, is Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post (Chris Patten, former governor of Hong Kong and Murdoch nemesis, is also a member). Bradlee said he believed the system would work in Britain. "The principle is well established in the US and I believe it makes for very healthy journalism," he said.