- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

The Guardian

The prime minister’s health

LONDON — Get well soon, Mr. Blair. That is overwhelmingly and properly the main thing. Yet our culture cannot leave it at that. Some of [Mondays] headlines and bulletins went seamlessly into a political obituary mode not justified by the known facts.

The doctors who treated Mr. Blair said his supra-ventricular tachycardia was a relatively common condition and was easily treated. …

Although we have not yet reached American levels of obsession with perpetual youth, we seem increasingly to expect our political leaders to be on the young side of middle-age, photogenic and healthy. Every part of this is absurd and dangerous. Infirmity, ill-health and aging are part of the human condition. They do not prevent a person from continuing to work in other spheres and there is no reason why politicians should be any different.

Sixty years ago, this country was led through five years of total war by an old man who, while in office, successively suffered a heart attack, pneumonia, exhaustion, heart fibrillation, lung trouble and fever, who drank heavily almost every day and who was prone to clinical depression. Of course, a Churchill comes among us only rarely. Yet the savior of the nation could not have survived politically today, because we have unrealistic expectations about political leaders’ health and because we always sensationalize any problems that occur. It is not self-evident that modern nations are better led by men and women in their 40s and 50s than by those in their 60s and 70s. As a society, we have to relearn the need for some public figures to be old and infirm, even while others remain youthful and fit.


Politics of exclusion

OSLO — Gains by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SPP) in Sunday’s national assembly election threaten to disrupt the traditional balance between political parties there and weaken that nation’s world reputation.

After a coarse campaign … that oozed of hostility toward foreigners … the party scored with voters. …

What is most worrisome is the way in which the SPP made its gains. The party came dangerously close to racist statements about asylum seekers and refugees. Some, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, believe the SPP crossed the line of decency. …

The election result also expresses the current mood of Switzerland, with a weakened economy, rising unemployment and welfare benefits under pressure.

In such times, it is easy to blame the state of things on foreigners and other outside factors. Switzerland is clearly no exception in Europe, where several right-wing populist parties have made elections gains with similar rhetoric.

But the message is neither more correct nor more acceptable for that reason.

Egyptian Gazette

Sudan peace talks

CAIRO — Barring 11th-hour snags, the Khartoum government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) are set to clinch a peace deal soon. Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha and SPLA chief John Garang are in Kenya for a fresh round of negotiations.

They are grappling with thorny issues such as division of wealth, mainly oil, and power-sharing between the government and the SPLA.

The United States, haunted by fiascos in Iraq and Palestine, keeps a high-profile role in prodding the two sides to cut the peace deal. This American attention is laudable, given the aim is presumably to end a two-decade war which has claimed 2 million lives in southern Sudan. There are reasons for concern, however.

In its yearning for a Sudan agreement that will make up for other disappointments in the region, Washington may put pressure on one or both sides to produce a half-baked or lopsided pact. What Sudan badly needs is a peace agreement that will stand the test of time and preserve its unity. Such an objective must not be sought through coercion.

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