- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Daily Star

Middle East Diplomacy

BEIRUT — There is much diplomatic activity taking place throughout the Middle East these days, centered on Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Iran, Sudan, Somalia and a few less turbulent places. Perhaps the most fascinating meeting that took place Jan. 5 was in Beijing, where China’s President Hu Jintao urged Iran to “respond seriously” to a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Tehran’s trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology. In reply, visiting Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani repeated his country’s claim to a peaceful nuclear industry, adding that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a “good framework” to which Iran remains committed.

The Iranian and Chinese comments followed last month’s vote by the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran to try to stop uranium-enrichment work that Western powers fear could lead to making bombs. Beijing is a veto-wielding permanent member of the council, holds high-level talks with Iran, depends on it for about 12 percent of its crude oil imports and is strongly committed to a resumption of talks to break the nuclear stalemate. The combination of Chinese diplomatic power and friendly persuasion should be something of a reality check for the Iranians, who are likely to use their ongoing contacts with Russia and China to probe for a reasonable compromise.

Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan’s ties with Europe

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tour of four European nations may mark an epochal turn of events in Japan’s political and security dialogue with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. …

Mr. Abe’s European tour offers an opportunity to beef up Japan’s relationship with the EU and NATO, both of which have boosted their membership while also undergoing significant changes in their structures.

The prime minister should urge European leaders to cooperate in preventing North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, and also to make efforts to resolve the abduction dispute and strictly implement sanctions against the reclusive state.

Increasing exchanges with European nations in economic, political, security and many other fields is certain to support Japan’s efforts to gain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Times

Sexual-orientation rules

LONDON — When a Christian hotel owner refuses a bed to a gay couple on the basis that sodomy is a sin, it is difficult not to feel that prejudice is simply masquerading as conscience. For a commercial enterprise to put up a sign saying “no gays” should be as unthinkable as one saying “no blacks.” That is an indication of just how far the majority view has shifted in the past 20 years.

The question is how quickly the law should move in formalizing this change in our culture. The government’s sexual-orientation regulations, the subject of heated debate in the [House of] Lords [on Tuesday], are designed to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals and transsexuals in Northern Ireland and eventually, it is assumed, throughout Britain. Rarely have Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups been so stridently united as they were [Tuesday], in arguing that the law has already gone far enough. They fear that further attempts to appease a gay minority will discriminate against religious ones. …

Religious beliefs should be respected. But it does not follow that those who hold them should always be free to discriminate. Sacred texts cannot be rewritten, but they can be re-interpreted. Reformist leaders of all faiths are working hard to build a cultural tolerance inside their institutions that reflects that in the outside society. …

The law has played a vital role in securing equal rights for homosexuals, and indeed in helping to change perceptions dramatically. The government deserves much credit for this. But these new regulations are too vague. The question now is how best to encourage those few who still practice discrimination to love their neighbors, of whatever orientation.

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