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Voice of America, 00-01-10

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

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





    INTRO: The recent death of Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman and the subsequent parliamentary elections in which Mr. Tudjman's nationalist party was soundly defeated are major topics in U-S editorial pages. Many papers say these developments present the Balkan state with an opportunity to become more democratic and strengthen economic bonds with the rest of Europe. We get a sampling now from ____________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

    TEXT: Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who died at the end of last year, was a nationalist who played a key role in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and the Bosnian war shortly after. He has been blamed, in part, for fomenting the ethnic hatred that has consumed the Balkans. But Mr. Tudjman's legacy also includes being the father of modern Croatia. Now that he has died and opposing forces have won a majority in recent parliamentary elections, the nation appears ready to progress to a more representative democracy. Most U-S dailies commenting on these developments are optimistic. We begin our sampling in the Rocky Mountains, where Denver's Rocky Mountain News International affairs columnist Holger Jensen writes:

    VOICE: Europe and Washington have high hopes for the new government of Croatia after that country's voters soundly rejected the legacy of the late President Franjo Tudjman. A coalition of Social Democrats and Social Liberals beat [Mr.] Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union . by a margin of two to one in parliamentary elections Monday[1/3], virtually guaranteeing the opposition victory in a presidential poll later this month. (OPT) Drazaen Budisa . the coalition's candidate for president, says his "immediate task is to pull Croatia out of economic crisis, remove anomalies in our democratic system and lure the country out of international isolation." (END OPT) . [Mr.] Tudjman, who died December tenth, led Croatia to independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 but lost the support of the West because of his dictatorial ways and a hard-line nationalism that led to conflict with Serbs and Muslims.

    TEXT: In Cleveland, Ohio, a city where many Croatian- Americans live, The Plain Dealer says the changes mean Croatia Charts [A] New Course.

    VOICE: Croatian voters gave democracy a big boost in parliamentary elections . Overwhelmingly, they supported a center-left bloc challenging a nationalist party founded by the late President . Tudjman. Dissatisfaction over alleged corruption and high unemployment helped topple [Mr.] Tudjman's loyalists. But Western analysts also greeted the result as an indication that Croatians had rebelled against an autocratic style of government. .. For the United States and its European allies, the new regime offers the possibility of more cordial relations with Croatia. . Many Croatians long for closer ties with the European Union, and Monday's election returns foster hope that this goal can be accomplished.

    TEXT: In Maine, the Portland Press Herald calls the vote "a promising development," while the New York Times says the election results are "encouraging news for the entire Balkan region."

    VOICE: The grip of the Croatian Democratic Union was faltering even before Mr. Tudjman's death last month. Now with the party's most popular leader gone and its parliamentary candidates repudiated at the polls, the path seems open to a more democratic, prosperous and westward-looking Croatia.

    TEXT: In the capital of Rhode Island, the Providence Journal is also heartened by the latest developments from Zagreb.

    VOICE: The C-D-U [Mr. Tudjman's party] has ruled Croatia since Mr. Tudjman pulled the nation out of Yugoslavia and declared it independent in 1991. There was, of course, nothing particularly wrong with Croatian independence, but there was plenty wrong with the rest of Mr. Tudjman's agenda: "ethnic cleansing" against Serbs living in Croatia, bullying -- as far as he could get away with it -- the new, Muslim-dominated nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and perhaps worst of all, imposing near-dictatorial rule over his fellow Croatians. Monday's election results are a good sign.

    TEXT: Turning to the Chicago Tribune, the largest daily in the Midwest, we get this assessment of the late Croatian leader.

    VOICE: (OPT) [Mr.] Tudjman was no Milosevic in terms of ethnic cleansing, but neither was he blameless in his pursuit of a "greater Croatia." His leadership led to the forced exodus of most of Croatia's 600-thousand Serbs. (END OPT) Many Croats understandably feel the U-S ought to be grateful for what [President] Tudjman did accomplish. True, he served as an important counterweight to [Yugoslavian President] Milosevic. With substantial U-S help and encouragement, he launched the offensive that pushed 300-thousand Serbs out of the Krajina region alone and brought [Mr.] Milosevic to the bargaining table for the 1995 Dayton peace talks. But his critics accused him of corruption and meddling in Bosnia, where he never gave up the idea of incorporating Croat areas under his rule. For the sake of Balkan stability, the world ought to encourage Croatia to give up that dream now and to work quickly, and unequivocally, for better integration into a free, united and prosperous Europe. That is the best hope for Croatia after [Mr.] Tudjman.

    TEXT: Lastly, these thoughts from the Washington Post on the late Croatian leader.

    VOICE: Under strongman Franjo Tudjman, the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia dwelled in a twilight between dictatorship and democracy. The late Mr. Tudjman made free use of the ugly tools of extreme nationalism, thuggery and ethnic prejudice. Even today, an estimated half of the ethnic Serbs who once lived in Croatia remain refugees beyond its borders. The suffering Mr. Tudjman inflicted received less attention than it should have because his mirror-image comrade-in-crime, Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, behaved worse.

    TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of comment on the death of Croatian President Franjo and his country's parliamentary elections.
    NEB/ANG/KL 10-Jan-2000 15:43 PM EDT (10-Jan-2000 2043 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Russia's military says a temporary pause in the Chechnya offensive is over. V-O-A Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports Russian forces are fighting to keep control of two key Chechen towns after a series of rebel counterattacks resulted in the highest reported Russian casualties since the start of the campaign in September.

    TEXT: Russia's Defense Minister, Igor Sergeyev, has vowed to resume the Chechnya offensive after a temporary lull in air attacks over the past few days. During the pause, Chechen rebels staged successful counterattacks in several towns already under federal control. Russian news agencies quoted military officials as saying more than two dozen Russian soldiers were killed, and several dozen wounded during the counterattacks beginning Sunday. Those figures are the highest reported casualty rate during any 24-hour period since the offensive began. Russia's military usually reports no more than one or two federal casualties per day. General Viktor Kazantsev says Russian troops repelled several hundred Chechen rebels who staged a surprise offensive on the town of Argun, located just to the east of Grozny.


    He says, "Chechen fighters took advantage of the decision to ease the campaign and attacked the towns of Shali and Argun. But federal troops are now in control of the region." He says, "From now on we will not trust their promises. There will be no mercy for them." But Russian news agencies quote military sources as saying rebels were still fighting with federal troops in both Shali and Argun and that defense and interior ministry reinforcements were being sent to defend the region.


    General Kazantsev says he expects the military campaign to end in two months. He did not mention the situation in the federally-controlled town of Gudermes, which also suffered a rebel offensive.

    ///END OPT///

    General Kazantsev says new measures will be taken throughout the republic to prevent further rebel counterattacks.
    He says, "All civilian movement will only take place in the daytime - troops will set up a nighttime curfew. Soldiers will only treat women, children and the elderly as refugees," he says. "Everyone else will be arrested and dealt with separately." Russia's military reported high rebel casualties in Grozny as helicopter gunships pounded targets in a northwestern district of the rebel capital. Federal forces are also striking targets around the village of Vedeno and the Argun gorge in Chechnya's southern mountains, which Russian forces are attempting to occupy. (Signed) NEB/EC/GE/LTD/JO 10-Jan-2000 09:48 AM EDT (10-Jan-2000 1448 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: The European Union (E-U) plans to discuss next week whether to invite Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to visit its headquarters in Brussels. V-O-A's Ron Pemstein reports from Brussels that European Commission President Romano Prodi favors the visit.

    TEXT: Mr. Gadhafi suggested the visit to European Commission President Romano Prodi. Since that telephone conversation, E-U member Britain has intercepted weapons intended for Libya from Taiwan. The European Union maintains an arms embargo against Libya. Libya has told the European Union it wants to join the 27-member European-Mediterranean forum that includes countries that agree to observe human rights, democracy and free trade. At the same time, in an official note to the European Union, Libya says it will insist that Israel and the Palestinian Authority, two current members, be excluded. If Libya maintains that condition, a European Commission spokesman says it will stay out of the European Union's Mediterranean process. However, the spokesman does not link the unacceptable condition to the question of whether the Libyan leader should be invited to Brussels. European Union members are to discuss next week the program for a Gadhafi visit. Commission President Prodi, speaking in Lisbon, says he does not need anyone's permission to make the invitation.

    /// Prodi Act ///

    For the program of Colonel Gadhafi, I don't need to ask any permission to anybody. It is in my authority to invite him or not. I tell you that we had many, many exchanges of views, not only in the past week but also in the past months concerning the program with the states that had for a long time some problem with the international community. I have no idea when the meeting will take place. I tell you that it will take place in clarity.

    /// End Act ///

    All 15 countries in the European Union have diplomatic relations with Libya and the European Commission does not want to be left behind. /// Opt /// Commission spokesman Jonathan Faull says Mr. Prodi favors the Gadhafi visit because he wants to intensify the dialogue with Libya.

    /// FAULL ACT - OPT ACT ///

    There is a process underway. The President remains very much in favor of a process of discussion with the Libyan authorities. But of course we have a very precise political, legal framework in which our relations with the countries around the Mediterranean are conducted. And it is in that framework that we wish to pursue discussions with Libya.

    /// END ACT - END OPT ///

    Libya is the only country outside Europe that is not a member of the Euro-Mediterranean forum. Even a visit to Brussels by Muammar Gadhafi will not change that situation unless Libya drops its opposition to the membership of Israel and the Palestine Authority. (Signed)
    NEB/RP/GE/JO 10-Jan-2000 13:19 PM EDT (10-Jan-2000 1819 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: French trucking companies are blocking ports and border crossings as part of a labor dispute. And trucks from other countries are not being allowed into the country. Paul Miller reports from Paris that the blockade is a protest against a government-mandated shorter work week and higher fuel costs.

    TEXT: The blockade was organized by French trucking companies - a variation of past protests by drivers, farmers and fisherman who prevented truck traffic from entering the country. This time the main drivers' union is supporting the companies, both in the protest and in their opposition to the 35 hour work week. The shorter week went into effect January 1st and is part of the government's efforts to bring down the unemployment rate by creating a need for more workers. But the truckers say French drivers were already at a disadvantage compared with drivers from countries that do not limit hours worked. They say they are losing long-haul business to the Scandinavians in particular. They are also upset about rising fuel costs. The price of diesel fuel has gone up on world markets, just as the Euro lost value against the dollar -- the currency in which oil prices are quoted. The result, the tucking companies say, is a 20 percent increase in costs that leaves them unable to compete. Border crossings and tunnels into Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain have been blockaded and the line of trucks stuck at the borders is growing. Channel ports, such as Calais, are also targeted. That has an immediate effect on British truck drivers who use the ports to haul good around the continent. The British Road Haulage association says it doubts the French government will intervene to break the blockade and it is warning the public to expect a long period of disruption. (SIGNED)
    NEB/PM/GE/JO 10-Jan-2000 09:30 AM EDT (10-Jan-2000 1430 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: A controversy has erupted in Italy over whether Pope John Paul should consider stepping down as head of the Roman Catholic Church for health reasons. The debate started after the top German Catholic Bishop suggested the Pope should resign if he was not well-enough to fulfill his duties. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

    TEXT: With the Pope nearing the age of 80, Bishop Karl Lehmann's comments in an interview with a German radio station were a bombshell. The president of Germany's Bishops' Conference said that he was confident that the Pope would have the strength and courage to step down if he felt he was no longer capable of leading the Church with responsibility. Although many inside the Vatican have often asked themselves whether the current Pope may decide to step down, it was the first time such an influential figure in the Catholic hierarchy made his views public. A number of top-ranking Vatican officials reacted harshly, claiming no one has a right to suggest that the Pope should resign. Pope John Paul the Second, who has led the Catholic Church since his election in 1978, has long suffered from what is thought to be Parkinson's disease. He has looked increasingly tired during mass and his speech is often slurred. He also walks with difficulty since he underwent hip replacement surgery in 1994. The unspoken rule in the Vatican has always been that popes do not resign. But in his comments, Bishop Lehmann made clear that there is a precedent: Pope Celestine the fifth, who stepped down at the end of the 13th century. In addition, Church law specifies that the pontiff can resign if he so wishes. However, that decision must be taken freely and need not be accepted. The head of the German's Bishops' Conference also commented that should the pope want to retire, his aides may not agree or feel the time is right. However, Bishop Lehmann said that, despite his frailty, he felt that the Pope still displays what he called an "unbelievable presence of mind" and continues to fulfil his duties as pontiff. Pope John Paul has been very busy over the Christmas holiday season and has a hectic schedule ahead of him during the Jubilee Year of 2000, including a visit to the Holy Land in March. (Signed)
    NEB/SC/GE/JO 10-Jan-2000 10:36 AM EDT (10-Jan-2000 1536 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Stock prices in the United States were higher today (Monday) as an announcement of a mega-merger pulled up all shares related to technology. VOA correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York:

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 49 points, four-tenths of one percent, closing at a record 11-thousand-572. The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 16 points. The technology-weighted Nasdaq composite climbed over four percent, posting the biggest one-day point gain in Nasdaq history. Internet and entertainment stocks led the rally after the world's number one internet provider America Online said it will buy media giant TimeWarner in the largest takeover deal ever.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    A-O-L will gain access to TimeWarner's broadband distribution system and its impressive list of advertisers. TimeWarner gains a high-speed internet connection. Steven Case of A-O-L will be the chairman of the new company:

    /// CASE ACT ///

    We are very excited about joining forces with TimeWarner because we share a common vision for the future. TimeWarner is the first major media company to not only recognize but to fully embrace the new inter-active world. Together we can change the future for the better.

    /// END ACT ///

    /// END OPT ///

    The corporate earnings season is officially underway on Wall Street. Leading aluminum producer Alcoa says its fourth quarter profits rose more than 50 percent, beating expectations. Earnings were driven by higher prices for aluminum and declining costs.

    /// REST OPT ///

    Alcoa - traded in the Dow Jones - is set for a two- for-one stock split in May. Number one automaker General Motors says that, by the end of January, it will buy the half of Sweden's Saab Automobile that it does not already own. G-M is under pressure to boost its luxury line in Europe, where Saab is one of the few available luxury brands. U-S rival Ford Motor Company already owns Jaguar and Sweden's Volvo line. And DaimlerChrysler makes the Mercedes-Benz. NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/KL 10-Jan-2000 17:51 PM EDT (10-Jan-2000 2251 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Editorial writers in the daily press this Monday are focused on this year's race for the US presidency. The first of many primary votes, a process in which parties choose their candidate, comes in a few weeks in New Hampshire. Africa is coming in for considerable attention this Monday also, with a variety of topics, ranging from the continent's economic troubles to the coup in the Ivory Coast. Writers are also commenting on the Israeli-Syrian peace talks; the reappointment of Alan Greenspan to the Federal Reserve; and more nervousness about North Korea's expanding weapons potential. Now, here is __________ with a few excerpts and a closer look in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: The first state primary election in New Hampshire is only about three weeks away and presidential politics is swallowing up the majority share of attention in editorial columns. Several commentaries, like this one in today's [Trenton, New Jersey] Times, talk about a potential problem for Arizona Senator John McCain, a strong Republican candidate. He has been accused of using his influence in the Senate to help a big campaign contributor get a ruling from the Federal Communications Commission on the purchase of a TV station.

    VOICE: The senator's argument that in the Paxson case [he] was merely interceding on behalf of a citizen who was being jerked around [Editors: unfairly treated] by the bureaucracy would have much more credence if he could show that he routinely writes letters on behalf of, not just big donors, but ordinary citizens -- people who ... don't ... make big contributions to his campaign [and who are having problems with government agencies.

    TEXT: The Hartford Courant, on the same topic, says "[Mr.] McCain is seeking the ... nomination [on] a platform ... [of] campaign finance reform .... Candidates should practice what they preach about cleaning up campaigns."

    TEXT: After former Republican candidate Elizabeth Dole endorsed Republican frontrunner George W. Bush for President last week, The Boston Globe is worried that she may become his vice presidential running mate. The Globe wonders if she is "[the] wrong woman?"

    VOICE: . Is this the very best person to move into the presidency if need be? -- or [is the decision based] on cynical, vote-getting tokenism. With [Mrs.] Dole, the answer would be in doubt. She proved herself a competent executive in Ronald Reagan's cabinet .... but her own presidential candidacy flopped because she was not comfortable on the national stage. This is not a good quality for presidents, although it could change in a campaign and in office.

    VOICE: Turning to international topics, Africa is prominent in several editorials. The Fort Worth Star- Telegram (of Texas) insists that:

    VOICE: Western nations cannot afford to continue to ignore the troubled continent. In designating January as a time to focus upon Africa, the United States is devoting a portion of its current term in the rotating presidency of the U-N Security Council to a worthy objective. But given the depth and breadth of Africa's problems, one has to wonder what of any substance can be accomplished by the discussions .... One of the announced goals of the Month of Africa forums is to try to persuade Africans that Western industrialized nations care very much about what is happening on their continent. That will be hard to do because the truth is that they don't.

    TEXT: Boston's Christian Science Monitor is pleased the U-N Security Council is taking up the scourge of AIDS which is devastating many African nations.

    VOICE: An estimated 22-million Africans are infected with the HIV virus that's thought to cause AIDS. ... The world can't let a continent of people already living on the margins face a 21st century holocaust. Who knows what the global spillover might be, let alone the pangs of conscience.

    TEXT: Lastly on Africa, The Sun in Baltimore, considers the recent military coup in Ivory Coast that deposed President Henri Konan Bedie, and suggests:

    VOICE: This could turn out to be a benign coup. The 16 million people seem relieved so far. The idea may be to let the civilian politician, who would win a fair election, run the government in coalition with others, though the army is retaining true control. Other governments are reserving judgment and suspending aid, which thanks to Mr. Bedie's misrule, the country needs. The pressure is correct.

    TEXT: Turn to the topic of peace in the Middle East, there are concerns from the San Francisco Chronicle on the eventual cost to the United States of Israeli- Syrian peace, under discussion between the two sides in West Virginia.

    VOICE: The bill could run to ... 100-billion, depending on ... final peace terms. [But] ... a Republican-majority Congress may not want to pay the tab of a foreign legacy for President Clinton.

    TEXT: Here at home, there is more praise for President Clinton's reappointment, pending Congressional approval, of Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the nation's central bank. The Savannah [Georgia] Morning News calls it a "smart move by the president," adding:

    VOICE: Obviously, Mr. Greenspan deserves to be rewarded for a job well done. ... Mr. Greenspan's 12 years as Fed chairman have produced unparalleled economic success. .

    TEXT: The Atlanta [Georgia] Constitution adds the U-S economy [is] in good hands.

    VOICE: Granted, it is prudent to keep a wary eye out for any signs of economic overheating and inflationary momentum that might reverse the phenomenal period of growth American continues to enjoy. In that regard, [Mr.] Greenspan deserves great credit for his astute manipulation of the money supply to keep consumer prices relatively steady over the last 12 years.

    TEXT: Looking toward Asia, Pennsylvania's Greensburg Tribune-Review is concerned with the ongoing transfer of missile technology from China to North Korea, asking:

    VOICE: ... what will it take to get the United States government to pull its head out of the sand, stop coddling the Chinese, the North Koreans and other rogue nations, and take bold steps to check a threat to the world that seems to grow exponentially by the week?

    TEXT: On that disconcerting note, we conclude this sampling of comment from the editorial pages of Monday's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/JO 10-Jan-2000 12:07 PM EDT (10-Jan-2000 1707 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America

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