Odd One Out

Odd One Out

Odd One Out

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 22 1998 3:30 AM

Odd One Out

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The United States came under worldwide fire Monday for refusing to support a permanent international war crimes tribunal. In London, the Financial Times criticized the United States' "unfortunately petulant" opposition to the court, which was established by an accord signed in Rome this weekend. Describing the agreement as "a landmark in the quest for a more decent world," the FT said "there would be more reason to celebrate ... if the United States had been a signatory" instead of joining "China, Sudan and Libya as one of the handful of countries voting against it." The "superpower that sees itself as guardian of the world's conscience should think again," the FT added. "Otherwise, it could jeopardise its claim to the moral high ground in international affairs."

Die Welt of Germany said Monday in an editorial page article signed Katja Ridderbusch that "if the United States wants to be consistent with its own pretensions, it has no choice but to approve the idea of a world system of justice." And whether or not the United States and the court "love each other," it predicted they will have to "work together in both their interests."

Passionately welcoming the agreement, the Times of India lamented that the "intransigence of the US, Britain, France and other countries [flawed] the court's mandate ... in several crucial respects." Its main complaint was that an Indian proposal to rule the use of nuclear weapons a war crime was rejected "by the five officially-recognised nuclear-weapon states." The opposition was "completely irrational," said the paper, "[b]ut since the nuclear five did not want their right to commit mass murder to be compromised in any way, they ultimately had their way."

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In Israel, under the headline "Another UN obscenity," an editorial in the conservative Jerusalem Post stridently condemned the Rome agreement's inclusion, on Arab initiative, of a paragraph that defined as a war crime an occupying power's transfer of a civilians to territory it has occupied. "This attempt to place the relocation of Israelis to Judea and Samaria on the same moral plane as genocide and ethnic cleansing is obscene," the paper said in an editorial Monday. It described the U.S. failure to exempt its citizens and soldiers from the court's jurisdiction as "a stinging diplomatic rebuff."

In Johannesburg, South Africa, the Saturday Star published one of many extravagant eulogies of President Nelson Mandela as he celebrated both his 80th birthday and his marriage to Graça Machel. Calling him a man "who came to be revered by kings and vagabonds alike," the Star said: "Madiba, we wish you health, wealth, happiness and, most of all, we wish you love. When we look at you, Mr. President, we see all that is and can be good about our beloved country."

The Johannesburg Star said in a Monday editorial marking World Population Day that the projected increase in Africa's population from 758 million to 1,454 million between now and the year 2025 (compared with an expected 28 million decline in Europe's population over the same period to around 700 million) "need not spell only doom and gloom." It said that if the widely used term "African renaissance" signifies "a deliberate developmental revival" in Africa, the future of the continent might still provide hope for all its people. But if "political chicanery and corruption" continue, the term might be "soon enough consigned to the already substantial scrap heap of meaningless African catch phrases."

The Independent of London reported Monday that the queen of England may be restored as a kind of sovereign to her former colony, the Republic of Fiji. Though committed to keeping the country a presidential republic, the Great Council of Chiefs in Suva might approve, in a two day meeting starting Tuesday, the queen's symbolic return as "paramount chief." Last year Tuvalu, a chain of atolls in the South Pacific, reincorporated the Union Jack into its own flag after people criticized its removal, the paper said.

The British tabloids gave major coverage to a recent photograph of Cherie Blair, the British prime minister's wife, showing her wearing a "bioelectric" pendant round her neck to protect her from harmful energy rays. The Daily Mail Monday quoted the pendant's inventor, chiropractor Dr. Charles Brown, as saying that it "contains a 'magical configuration' of quartz and other crystals which deflect electromagnetic radiation from modern office equipment--and counter 'negative vibes.' " The secret formula for the pendant was closely guarded by its U.S. manufacturers, the Bioelectrical Shield Co., the newspaper said, quoting its British representative as saying "he believed that Mrs. Blair had decided to buy one after a recommendation from Hillary Clinton."