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Voice of America, 00-03-15

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says the United States is very concerned about the recent surge of violence in Kosovo, but the U-S commitment to the region remains firm. V-O-A's Paula Wolfson reports from Capitol Hill.

    TEXT: Secretary Albright says the stakes in Kosovo are high, and the United States can not turn away.

    /// 1st ALBRIGHT ACT ///

    If there is instability in the Balkans and vast numbers of immigration out of the Balkans into Europe, there will be instability in Europe.

    /// END ACT ///

    During an appearance before the House subcommittee that funds foreign-aid programs, the secretary of state faced a barrage of questions about recent violence in Kosovo. The subcommittee chairman, Alabama Republican Sonny Callahan, says he is worried about the threat posed to peacekeepers and Serb civilians by ethnic Albanian guerillas.

    /// CALLAHAN ACT ///

    The American people need to know that we simply have not exchanged one set of thugs for another in Kosovo.

    /// END ACT ///

    Ms. Albright said there is no denying the fact that some Kosovar Albanians are creating trouble. She recently sent two trusted advisers to the region -- State Department spokesman James Rubin and Balkans envoy Christopher Hill.

    /// 2ND ALBRIGHT ACT ///

    They went there for a specific purpose: to deliver a very tough message to the Kosovar Albanians about our displeasure with some of the things that have been going on. And they made quite clear that if there were provocations or various other activities that brought about divisions they would be in danger of losing our support.

    /// END ACT ///

    But the Secretary of State went on to stress that most residents of Kosovo -- whether of Serb or Albanian heritage -- simply want to get on with their lives in peace. She says what is often forgotten is that despite all the problems, lives have been saved and progress has been made. (Signed)
    NEB/PW/WTW 15-Mar-2000 17:22 PM EDT (15-Mar-2000 2222 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America


    THEME: UP, HOLD UNDER AND FADE Anncr: On the Line - a discussion of United States policy and contemporary issues. This week, "The Plight of the Gypsies." Here is your host, Robert Reilly. Host: Hello and welcome to On the Line. The demise of the Soviet empire nearly ten years ago allowed ethnic tensions to surface in a number of countries. The strife in the Balkans is perhaps the most notable example, particularly the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. But one often-overlooked group that has suffered from discrimination are the Gypsies, or Roma. Last year, a sixty-meter- long concrete wall was built in a Czech city to segregate a Gypsy neighborhood. The wall has since come down. According to the European Roma Rights Center, anti-Romani attacks have resulted in deaths in several Central and Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria and Slovakia. And returning Kosovar Albanians are reported to have ethnically cleansed Gypsies from Kosovo. Joining me today to discuss the plight of the Gypsies are two experts. Paul Polansky is an author and historian who has lived with the Roma people in Eastern Europe for nine years and written three books on the subject. He recently wrote a report on the gypsies in Kosovo for the United Nations Human Rights Commission. And Erika Schlager is counsel for international law at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Commission. Welcome to the program. Paul Polansky, what exactly are the dimensions of the problem that we are attempting to address here? Polansky: In Kosovo, before the war, according to a survey I did of the three hundred communities there for U-N-H-C-R [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], there were approximately one hundred and fifty-one thousand Roma living in Kosovo. Since the NATO troops arrived, that number has fallen to less than thirty thousand. There were nineteen thousand Romani homes before the war; today, there are only four thousand. Most of those homes were burned by the Albanians returning with the NATO troops. Host: Did not a number of Roma leave at the same time that the Kosovar Albanians were driven out by the Serbs? Polansky: Many Kosovar gypsies tried to leave but, because they are readily recognizable by the color of their skin and by their accent, the Serb guards at the border turned many of them back. Host: Why? Polansky: Because the Serbs have always used the gypsies as almost slave labor. They have used them in the mines for ten deutsche marks a month. And so they wanted to keep their labor force there. Host: Is cleansing too strong a term to use? Polansky: Not at all. Host: Why have they been cleaning the gypsies out of Kosovo when they themselves were just cleansed? Polansky: Because when they came back, they found the gypsies still living in their homes, and the Albanians saw that their own homes were burned. I think it was an act of revenge in some cases, but in other cases it was a systematic cleansing operation by the K-L-A {Kosovo Liberation Army]. Every gypsy community was visited on June the 18th. Now this was more than a coincidence. I believe it was a systematic act, an organized act to get rid of the minorities in Kosovo. Host: Erika Schlager, does that comport with what you know? Schlager: I think it is certainly the case that Roma have been targeted for revenge attacks since the end of the NATO engagement in Kosovo. Host: Why revenge? Schlager: I think perhaps it might be helpful to understand that the Romani community in Kosovo is actually a diverse community. Prior to the escalation of violence at the end of 1998, Roma were already caught between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians, in many respects, with both of those groups trying to exploit the Roma to enhance their own standing and their own position in Kosovo. Ethnic Albanians may have wanted to have Roma identify themselves as Albanians on the census, for example. Serbs may have wanted the same thing. Roma in the region have complained that they have been the victims of both Serbianization and Albanianization. But the result is that the community has some Roma who are Orthodox and Serbian-speaking, and some who are Muslim and primarily Albanian speaking, and other smaller groups as well. Some Roma who are Serbian- speaking are believed to have been complicit with Serbs when Serbs committed atrocities against Albanians. There are also Albanian-speaking Roma who were the victims of Serb-sponsored attacks. So you can see how complicated this is. Host: It is, but according to some Roma organizations this is beyond revenge and it is a systematic ethnic cleansing of gypsies from Kosovo. Is that too much of an exaggeration, or would you agree with Paul Polansky? Schlager: I think we have to start out by saying that revenge in and of itself, even when someone has committed an atrocity, a revenge attack is not justifiable. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, that is the place to take those sorts of complaints. And then it is very clear that Roma who are completely innocent have been made scapegoats. One of the most egregious examples of this came in a refugee camp that had been established in Macedonia. When many people were feeling from Kosovo in June of last year, the U-N-H-C-R tried very hastily to establish refugee camps. A U-N-H-C-R official had told an official from the O-S-C-E that Roma could not be protected in the camps. The U-N-H-C-R was already worried that there was such a sense of revenge among some of the ethnic Albanians in the camp that Roma would be in danger. On June 6th, there was a mob attack against some Roma in the camp that escalated to the point where a seven- year-old boy was being pulled by this mob, literally on the verge of being torn limb from limb. An official from a Catholic Relief Agency intervened and saved that boy's life. U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill came in subsequently with Macedonian riot police and was able to settle the mob down. But I think that shows the extent to which the violence can escalate and escalate very rapidly in that setting. Host: And this is something that has taken place, as you pointed out, under the eyes of the K-FOR forces, the combined NATO forces that are there supposedly providing a modicum of some kind of order. Of the hundred and fifty thousand gypsies or Roma in Kosovo, how many are left? Polansky: Twenty to thirty thousand. Host: Will any of them be able to return? Polansky: The U-N says today that it is not advisable for any gypsies to return to Kosovo at this time. Host: Because they cannot be protected? Polansky: They cannot be protected. They were not protected. Host: Where do they go? Gypsies are notoriously known as migrants or nomads, but where do you go when you are driven out of your own country? Polansky: I think that is one of the problems with this exodus -- that people have this stereotyped idea that gypsies are nomads. The Kosovar gypsies actually are settled gypsies. They have been settled. They have been in homes. They have been in jobs. They have gone to school. They are probably the most settled gypsies in Europe. They are not nomadic at all. And this is one of the problems of resettling them. People think that they can look after themselves because they have this stereotyped image of them being nomadic. They are not. They all had homes. They all had jobs. They all went to school; they could all read and write. Host: So really you are saying, as against that stereotype, that the gypsies or Roma in Kosovo were as assimilated as they probably are anywhere in Europe. Polansky: In the world. Schlager: With respect to the question of where did they go or where are they now, I think that they can primarily be looked at as being in three different places. First of all, there are possibly thirty thousand Roma who are in Kosovo, many of whom are actually displaced persons because they have been burnt out of their homes. So they are in Kosovo, but that does not mean that they have a roof over their head or a place to live. Certainly in that setting they have no ability to send their children to school and many of them, as Paul has seen, do not have the same access to humanitarian aid that some of the other groups have. A very substantial number have gone into Macedonia. As I just said a few moments ago, we have seen that in Macedonia there are tremendous problems for them in the camps. And Macedonia itself is a very small country that has taken in a substantial number of the refuges and has really gone to great lengths to accommodate them, but can only be reasonably expected to go so far. And then there are Roma who have gone to Western countries: Germany, Hungary and Italy. But I think that we need to understand that those countries that we would normally think of as safe havens or safe third countries are not necessarily safe countries for Roma. In Italy, for example, about a year ago, about the same time that there was this mob incident in the camp in Macedonia, there was a mob attack in Naples. There was a settled Romani community there. There had been an incident where a Rom was believed to have committed some crime and there was a whole mob attack against a thousand people in a camp, and this was within the settled community in Italy. So you can imagine how difficult that it would really be for Roma from Kosovo to get settled. Host: Let's talk about that for a moment -- how difficult it is in other parts of Eastern and Central Europe or even Western Europe. You have resided for some years in the Czech Republic. From your perch there, what do you see in Central and Eastern Europe as far as the gypsies are concerned? Polansky: Unfortunately, there is genocide, at the very least cultural genocide against the Roma in almost all Eastern European countries. Host: That is a very strong term. Polansky: When you have special schools for the children - you do not allow them to go to normal schools. At the age of five or six they are condemned to schools for the mentally retarded for their whole school life and are never allowed to go to college. I do not think that is a very strong term at all. And this is what is happening in the Czech Republic. In fact, the Roma Rights Center in Budapest has filed a lawsuit against the Czech government to try to change these special schools. Romani children at the age of six are given a test. Ninety percent of them flunk this test and are condemned to special schools for the rest of their lives. Host: A Roma cannot go to college in the Czech Republic? Polansky: Not if they are sent to a special school. Host: I see. You are disqualified by being sent there. Polansky: By the age of six you are already sentenced to what your life is going to be. Host: And what about other countries: Romania, Bulgaria? What is the situation there? Polansky: I think the further east you go the more difficult it gets for Roma. Host: These are O-S-C-E countries. Are they not trampling upon some human rights obligations they have in that respect if they are treating a minority in this way? Schlager: Certainly there are human rights violations and they are very serious ones. A couple of years ago, I was, in fact, very pessimistic about the prospects for human rights reform regarding the Roma. It seems to me that the Romani civil rights movement is going to be a very significant force in the twenty-first century and that the Romani civil rights movement can be seen as a speeding train heading toward Europe. And the question that I asked myself was whether the governments were going to stand aside as that train went past them, whether they would get on that train and ride it, or whether they would be run over by it. And a couple of years ago I was rather pessimistic. More recently, I think a number of governments have started to acknowledge the magnitude of the problems they have in their countries. Host: For instance, you did have, when the wall went up in that Czech town, no one less than President Vaclav Havel came out and condemn it as an atrocious thing. Schlager: I think that is very much to President Havel's credit. But at the same time, he was regrettably very isolated in making that kind of statement. Prime Minister [Milos] Zeman had said at one point, when the wall was still standing and there were a lot of efforts being made to resolve the crisis, Prime Minister Zeman said that under no circumstances would he even consider buying out the people who lived next to the Roma there. They had suggested: buy out our homes and we will go away quietly. It was bribery money that they were asking for. And in the end, that is exactly what the government did. Rather than paying the money directly to those who demanded this ransom, they effected this by paying the money to the city council which in turn bought out the homes of the ethnic Czechs who lived there and were not happy living next to Roma. And this was to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. And unfortunately, I think that is a very negative precedent. There are other places in the region where I think there are more positive steps being taken. Paul was speaking a moment ago about the very serious problem of de facto segregation and that it's a problem that occurs in many of the post-Communist countries. In the last year, the Hungarian ombudsman for national minorities and the minister for education held a press conference where they basically admitted that that is what has been happening in Hungary. But I think admitting that the problem exists is an important first step to being able to address the problem. Most of the governments in the region are still not at the point of admitting there is a problem. Host: But most of it is de facto rather than de jure segregation? Schlager: That is true with respect to education. I think one area where the law is rather clearer in a negative sense is with respect to the absence of anti-discrimination legislation. All of the post-Communist countries lack any civil statute that would make discrimination in education and housing, employment and labor, in the military, in public places, that would make it illegal, that would give someone the right to go and sue if they had been discriminated against. As a consequence, it is not unheard of to see a sign in front of a restaurant that says, "no dogs, no gypsies." Host: And there is no recourse against that? Schlager: There is theoretical recourse. It is possible under most of these little systems that you could go to a public prosecutor and persuade that person to bring criminal charges. But I can probably count on one hand the number of times when public prosecutors have been willing to do it. One of the most highly publicized events of this kind took place recently in the Czech Republic. There is one Romani Member of Parliament, Monika Horakova. She was trying to go into a club with a friend of hers and was turned away because she is a Rom. So even someone as well known as a member of parliament can have this happen. And what I think is particularly unfortunate from my view is that I am not aware of any members of Parliament who stood up and condemned the treatment their colleague suffered. Host: Paul Polansky, what possible remedies do you see? This is a problem on which you have worked for so many years and written so much about. There are countries that have attempted programs of assimilation and pubic housing -- Spain is a notable example -- that have not worked that well. Polansky: You know, you find racism also in Spain. I have lived in Spain for many years and I know that there are villages in Spain where the mayor and the Guardia Civil have not allowed any gypsies to rent or buy a home. And in Great Britain, they are not processing legally the political asylum cases from gypsies from Eastern Europe. They are sending them back as quickly as they can. I have spoken to many Rom who, the minute they got off the airplane in London and requested political asylum, the wife and children are taken to a bed and breakfast, the father was put into jail. A few weeks later a social worker would come by and say that your wife and children have been molested by skinheads. Don't you think you should sign on the dotted line voluntarily to go back to the Czech Republic? Host: Erika Schlager was pointing to some signs of hope and a changing attitude in Europe. Do you see that, and how would it manifest itself? What would be your answer to the problems that the Romani are facing now? And is there any extent to which you would say that they have to change? Polansky: I think that the Roma are trying to integrate. They are tying to assimilate more than the majority is allowing them to do so. I actually had some hope a few years ago that things were changing in Eastern Europe, that the governments were recognizing the problem and were willing to invest money in education and jobs. But now with the war in Kosovo and in the Balkans, you see a great influx of Roma seeking a safe haven in Europe. And since they are not invited there, they are going underground. And this is creating turmoil in these countries. So I think the problem is getting worse because of the war in the Balkans. We are seeing at least a hundred-thousand Roma now in Eastern Europe and Western Europe who were not there a year ago. Host: How do you answer the point that some critics make who say that the Roma do not want to assimilate and that that's the problem. They keep by themselves and live by their own code. Polansky: This is another stereotype because most Roma, under the age of thirty, cannot speak Romani. They are losing their culture faster than people can imagine. I lived with Roma. I'm trying to learn Romani and I'm finding very few people who can teach it to me. If they can pass for white, they do so and they assimilate very quickly. Host: Maybe that is the ultimate, long-term answer: that assimilation will end discrimination. It is perhaps not what you would like to see. Schlager: I have to say that I do not really think that that is the way it is going to go. I think we are really on the threshold of seeing some very dynamic and exciting changes that will occur in this next decade. Just looking back on what I have seen in the past decade, it is incredible -- the differences in the Romani communities. First of all, I think we have to remember that Romani political maturation was dealt a devastating blow by the Holocaust, where Roma were targeted for extermination. There had been in the twenties and thirties the beginning of Romani political movements and the Holocaust decimated them. Host: So you think that they themselves are coming to the fore, to their own defense, and they are going to make progress this way. Schlager: Very much so. They are very much experiencing an incredible period of empowerment and that is very exciting. Host: I'm afraid that's all the time we have this week. I would like to thank our guests -- historian Paul Polansky and Erika Schlager from the Helsinki Commission -- for joining me to discuss the plight of the gypsies. This is Robert Reilly for On the Line. Anncr: You've been listening to "On the Line" - a discussion of United States policies and contemporary issues. This is --------. 15-Mar-2000 15:18 PM EDT (15-Mar-2000 2018 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Horst Koehler, who for 18 months has headed the London-based bank that is helping foster market economies in Russia and the former communist Eastern Europe, is headed for the top job of the 182-member- nation International Monetary Fund. V-O-A's Barry Wood has more.

    TEXT: Mr. Koehler later this week will meet the 24 executive directors of the I-M-F who will be voting on his nomination to be managing director. The 57-year old former German civil servant is now the only candidate being considered to succeed Michel Camdessus, who last month retired early after heading the I-M-F for 13 years. Germany, as Europe's largest economy, argued strongly that one of its citizens should head the global lending agency, which has been directed by a French national for 35 of the past 37 years. On Tuesday Mr. Koehler was praised by U-S Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who had vetoed Germany's first choice (Caio Koch-Weser) for the I-M-F job. Mr. Summers said he looked forward to working with Mr. Koehler as managing director. He said he brings extensive experience in European monetary affairs and the financing of German re-unification. World Bank president James Wolfensohn also had positive words for the man almost certain to be the head of the I-M-F.

    /// WOLFENSOHN ACT ///

    I think Horst Koehler will be a very, very good person to run the I-M-F. I know him well. He is an admirable leader of the E-B-R-D (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). But I have to say that I am very glad this thing is finally over. I believe he will do a very good job and I look forward to working with him.

    /// END ACT ///

    Before becoming head of the European Bank, Mr. Koehler headed the association of German Savings Banks. Before that he held the position of deputy finance minister under Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Earlier Tuesday Japan withdrew the name of its candidate, former deputy finance minister Eisuke Sakakibara. The I-M-F has a weighted voting system apportioned on the basis of economic and financial power. Collectively, the United States and Western Europe have over 50-percent of the votes. (Signed) NEB/BDW/TVM/gm 14-Mar-2000 19:10 PM EDT (15-Mar-2000 0010 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Hungarian officials say another spill of heavy metals is polluting the river Tisza in the eastern part of the country. Stefan Bos in Budapest reports Hungarian officials say the spill took place at the same location in Romania where heavy metal waste was dumped into the river last week.

    TEXT: Officials say the new pollution is from a dam in northwestern Romania that burst last week, dumping 20-thousand tons of heavy metal waste into the river Tisza. United Nations experts who are studying the river say Hungarian officials told them the latest spill is up to 35 kilometers long. But Romania's ministry of environment denied there was a new spill and blamed the new concentration of heavy metals on reconstruction work at the dam. Hungarian officials say the latest spill threatens to devastate the upper section of the river Tisza. This area was not affected six weeks ago when a cyanide spill from a different Romanian site wiped out nearly all life in the lower parts of the river. Hungarian mayors have warned people living in communities near the Tisza not to drink the river's water. Experts say the lead, zinc, and copper associated with heavy metal spills will find their way into food and could endanger human health. The policy officer of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Hungary, Tibor Farago, says heavy metal pollution could aggravate Hungary's already high cancer rate.

    /// FARAGO ACT ///

    Certain heavy metals may cause cancer, for example. Don't expect that fishes or other living species are safe ... So heavy metals can appear in the whole chain, in the food chain, distorting the balance of the life in the region.

    /// END ACT ///

    Increasingly frustrated Hungarian government officials have urged Romania to close potential environmental hazards, arguing that failing to do so would otherwise harm Romania's bid to join the European Union. On Monday, Hungary's foreign minister summoned the Romanian ambassador to demand that Romania wait no longer to close facilities deemed dangerous. Hungarian Foreign Ministry official Istvan Horvath says Hungary also wants to sign a bilateral agreement with Romania on environmental protection. Officials say 96 percent of Hungary's drinking water comes from rivers that flow into the country from neighboring nations. And they say they want to reach similar environmental protection agreements with other countries. But Mr. Horvath says difficult negotiations are expected before Hungary reaches an agreement with Romania.

    /// HORVATH ACT ///

    The main text of the agreement is ready, but there are some points, especially on the recovery of damages and the remedies. These are the hot points of the convention. It requires acceptance of the Romanian side. It is a very hard negotiation.

    /// END ACT ///

    Romania said Wednesday it would analyze Hungarian proposals to prevent further ecological damage. But Hungary made it clear its neighbor should not waste time as the ongoing pollution could further poison relations between the two countries. (Signed) NEB/SB/JWH/ENE/JP 15-Mar-2000 14:12 PM EDT (15-Mar-2000 1912 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: U-S stock prices were mixed today (Wednesday). Technology shares sold off for a third straight session, benefiting the much-neglected "blue-chips." V-O-A correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York:

    TEXT: In a day of heavy trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average went up 320 points, over three percent, to 10-thousand-131. The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 33 points. The Nasdaq composite, under pressure, dropped two and one-half percent, bringing it very close to what Wall Street considers a downward correction phase. The Nasdaq is off more than nine percent from its record high last Friday.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    Biotechnology stocks regained some lost ground. But it was not enough to make up for their 13-percent loss Tuesday. The "biotechs" sold off after President Clinton and the British prime minister (Tony Blair) proposed that private companies doing research on human genetic material make the data freely available to the public. Experts say investors over-reacted to what they saw as a potential loss of revenues for leading biotechnology companies.

    /// END OPT ///

    The latest on the U-S economy shows business inventories were up five-tenths of one percent in January. But retail sales were up more - eight-tenths of one percent - shaving inventories to their lowest level on record. Meanwhile, industrial production grew three-tenths of one-percent last month - less-than-expected - but with enough momentum in the sector to keep the U-S expansion on track.

    /// REST OPT ///

    Analyst Brian Fabry says the world's fortunes are improving and that is good for U-S business.

    /// FABRY ACT ///

    Export demand has picked up significantly as the rest of the world's economies are growing, and this is creating even more demand for products produced here in the United States.

    /// END ACT ///

    Wall Street anticipates another good earnings season for U-S businesses. Companies are already giving hints of better-than-expected profits. In other news, two U-S oil companies are determined to merge, despite a negative ruling by government regulators. Atlantic Richfield has agreed to sell its Alaskan oilfields to Phillips Petroleum for as much as seven-billion dollars, in a bid to win clearance for its takeover by B-P Amoco. The Federal Trade Commission is trying to block the buyout, claiming it would hurt competition and boost oil prices on the U-S West Coast. Between them, ARCO and B-P Amoco own almost three-quarters of Alaskan oil production. (Signed) NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/gm 15-Mar-2000 17:03 PM EDT (15-Mar-2000 2203 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: A disagreement between President Bill Clinton and the nation's foremost gun-owners' lobby, the National Rifle Association, is the top editorial topic in many Wednesday papers. There are also comments about China's trading status with this country and its pending membership in the World Trade Organization. Spain's election is covered, as is the recent papal apology for past sins of the Roman Catholic Church. Rounding out the topics are thoughts on the anti- democratic shift in Peru; the violence in Kosovo, and the progressive versus conservative battle in Iran. Now, here is _________ with a closer look and some excerpts in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: A top official of the National Rifle Association [N-R-A], Wayne LaPierre, has accused President Clinton of being willing to accept a certain level of killing in the United States to further his political agenda and aid his vice president. The remarks, made on a television news interview program, are the latest in a public disagreement between the N- R-A and the president. But these comments have drawn considerable criticism in the press. Says the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Mr. LaPierre's comment:

    VOICE: That remark raised the rhetoric to an outrageous level.

    TEXT: Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal believes the attack came because President Clinton has cleverly put the N- R-A on the defensive. The paper writes:

    VOICE: ...[Mr.] Clinton routinely sparks such outrage [as the LaPierre comment] on the part of the N-R-A. Like the Republican-controlled Congress, which [Mr.] Clinton has outmaneuvered by co-opting some of its ideas, the president has thrown the N-R-A off balance. The N-R-A, for instance, has suggested that what is needed is not more gun-control laws but more effective enforcement of current laws. [President] Clinton has responded by including in his budget proposal 280- million dollars for more gun investigators and prosecutors ...

    TEXT: While conceding that Mr. LaPierre "spoke intemperately", today's Manchester [New Hampshire] Union Leader says President Clinton is blocking gun reform now in Congress for partisan political purposes.

    VOICE: The last thing [Mr.] Clinton wants is for the Juvenile Justice bill sitting in Congress to be sent to his desk for signature. It is full of new gun control laws disappointingly agreed to by frightened Republicans and signed off on by the N-R-A. But if it passes, Al Gore wouldn't have anything to talk about on the campaign trail this fall.

    TEXT: Turning to international affairs, the debate over granting China permanent, normal trading status with the United States and supporting its bid to the World Trade Organization continues. Today's Milwaukee [Wisconsin] Journal Sentinel says that, on balance, granting China normal trade status is a good idea.

    VOICE: Virtually no one questions the economic benefits of China's membership in the world trading community. For the U-S, those benefits are enormous; under a deal negotiated last November, the U-S agreed to seek China's membership; in the W-T-O if China agreed to allow U-S agricultural and industrial products and services, such as Internet communications, to enter China. ... [Economic] development promotes human rights. As Internet use grows, for instance, China will be inundated by foreign ideas and influences. The growth of foreign banking, insurance and other industries will exert other pressures. The rule of law will inexorably replace arbitrary political decrees.

    TEXT: The Detroit News, which supports normalizing U- S relations with China, says that President Clinton will have a difficult time convincing Congress due to recent bellicose statements made from Beijing, about re-uniting Taiwan by force, and U-S labor union concerns about job loss.

    VOICE: His delay in approaching Congress has left a small window before the November elections to line up support for a measure whose foes include human rights activists and protectionists, mostly from his own party ... Currently, Congress extends the most favored nation status to China on an annual basis. Permanently normalizing trade ties with Beijing would take away a prominent forum from human rights activists. Meanwhile, labor unions fear that more investment opportunities in China would erode their ability to make demands on domestic industries.

    TEXT: Around the world, the victory this past Sunday of the right of center party in Spain draws this comment from the New York Times.

    VOICE: Something new and healthy is going on in Spanish politics, and Sunday's election results provide tangible proof. Party loyalties that were carried over from the civil war era and the long right-wing dictatorship of Francisco Franco are finally breaking down, yielding to a more pragmatic politics that judges governments by their performance. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is a clear beneficiary.

    TEXT: Pope John Paul the Second's apology for the past sins of the Roman Catholic Church draws this comment from The Sun in Baltimore, which calls the confession "breathtaking."

    VOICE: It is a small world getting smaller, and [the Pope] is pulling the church into it. If not endorsing the Protestant Reformation, he concedes it had a point. If not rolling back the Inquisition, he is agreeing with condemnation of much of it. The stern traditionalist on faith and morals within his church continues to understand its need for mutual tolerance with those outside. The outreach follows his visit to Egypt and precedes that to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.... The "purification of memory" he seeks is because the past is prologue. It is humanity's future and the church's future he has in mind.

    TEXT: To Latin America now, and more criticism of the increasingly authoritarian ways of Peru's president, as a national election approaches, from The Miami Herald.

    VOICE: Let's just end the fiction that Peru's president is practicing democracy. Call Alberto Fujimori what he is: an authoritarian who will employ any unlawful means to stay in power. Is it bad enough that he twisted the legislature and judiciary to bypass a constitutional prohibition against a third consecutive presidential term? No. Mr. Fujimori and his government are resorting to a full range of dirty tricks to ensure his reelection on April 9th. ... The O-A-S's mission of election observers in Peru now ... shouldn't validate this election. They should get out and call the world's attention to this electoral sham.

    TEXT: To the Balkans now and concern over the escalation of violence in Yugoslavia's Kosovo province from the Chicago Tribune, which says the rebels there are "playing with fire."

    VOICE: For the past decade, the coming of spring in the Balkans has often meant the eruption of a new war. This spring appears no different. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is already warning of a perilous "hot spring" that might drag United States and NATO peacekeepers into a new conflict in Kosovo. The Clinton administration must move expeditiously to see that that does not happen.

    TEXT: And lastly, in the Middle East, today's Boston Globe comments on the latest resistance to reform in Iran.

    VOICE: Recent acts of political violence in Iran illuminate a fundamental uncertainty haunting that strategically crucial country. The attempted assassination Sunday of Saeed Hajjarian, a newspaper editor and adviser to reformist President Mohammad Khatami, suggests that the struggle for power between hardline clerics and reformers may not be settled by peaceful, democratic means. ... /// OPT /// What makes the attempted assassination of [Mr.] Hajjarian troubling is that it could be a premonition of violent resistance to political change. Conservative clerics are defending their political power, their patronage, and, for some, considerable fortunes that were acquired by gaining control of religious foundations that function as corporate conglomerates. /// END OPT


    TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of comment from the pages of today's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/KL 15-Mar-2000 12:09 PM EDT (15-Mar-2000 1709 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America

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