Pissed Off About Off Piste

Pissed Off About Off Piste

Pissed Off About Off Piste

What the foreign papers are saying.
Feb. 26 1999 3:30 AM

Pissed Off About Off Piste

The top international story is that the Kosovo peace talks ended Tuesday without a signed agreement. Talks will reconvene in mid-March, and NATO has apparently agreed not to bomb Serbia in the interim. No agreement was reached because Serbian delegates refused to accept any plan enforced by NATO troops. Albanian delegates, on the other hand, pledged at the last minute to sign the proposed peace agreement--they will finalize their decision after consulting with advisers back home. Most international newspapers focus on the Serbs' intransigence and call the peace talks a failure. This is in contrast to, for instance, the New York Times, which focuses on the Albanian delegates' pledge to sign the agreement and concludes that the talks were a "limited success."

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The Irish Times calls Slobodan Milosevic "the undisputed winner" of the Rambouillet summit and NATO's credibility "its first casualty." The paper's main complaint is that Milosevic faces no serious consequences for his unwillingness to compromise. If anything, he's learned that NATO lacks the political will to punish him. The paper predicts that "killing in Kosovo is not likely to stop." Britain's Daily Telegraph agrees, saying: "No one has gained from the chaotic 'peace conference.'... No one except Slobodan Milosevic, who has been given a few more weeks to kill Kosovo Albanians before there will be any more talk of unleashing Nato on him." The same editorial also says that Albright's "humiliating climb-down" will hurt her credibility in future international crises. London's Independent listlessly concludes that "triumph was not on the agenda at Rambouillet yesterday, only weariness and relief that the show had been kept on the road after 17 days of discussions at which the two antagonists did not once negotiate with each other directly."

Many European papers give prominent coverage to news that another avalanche roared through a village in the Austrian Alps Tuesday. Sixteen people were killed, and more than 20 are missing. Recent avalanches in France, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland have killed dozens of people. An estimated 20,000 tourists are currently stranded in snowed-in resort towns throughout the Alps.

The Times of London reports that three Britons are being tried in a French court for recklessly endangering rescuers' lives by going "off piste" (off the marked trail) at a ski resort near Albertville. The lost Londoners contacted the authorities on a cell phone and were brought to safety without injuries to skiers or rescuers. The trial is attracting attention in English papers because some of the Alpine avalanches this winter have been attributed to irresponsible off piste skiers. (Astonishingly, the brief Times story finds room to list each defendant's income, as in "Mr Fairley, a father of two, earns about £46,000 a year as European sales manager for a medical equipment firm.")

A Ugandan paper, the New Vision, has scored the first interview with deposed dictator Idi Amin in over a decade ("An Audience With Big Daddy Idi," reprinted in South Africa's Daily Mail & Guardian). The profile sketches "Big Daddy" as a playful old duffer--e.g., "to punish the Ugandan media for running false stories that he eats dozens of oranges a day, [Amin] refuses to have his picture taken." The interviewer notably refrains from asking any hard questions about, say, the 200,000 Ugandans thought to have died under Amin's rule. Perhaps this is because before the interview Amin told the reporter that "his people" in Uganda "say they know you, the place you stay and when you get home." Amin lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on a Saudi pension; he has five satellite dishes, drives a white Cadillac, and enjoys fishing in the Red Sea.

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Bruce Gottlieb is a former Slate staff writer and chief counsel at the Federal Communications Commission. He is currently general counsel at the Atlantic Media Company.