- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2004

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

The Scotsman

The violence in Iraq

EDINBURGH, Scotland — … The violence in Iraq has been triggered by the imminence of the June deadline for returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people. What we are seeing is a sudden jockeying for position among the rival Shia groups. One group in particular is involved — the radical Jamaat al-Sadr al-Thani, known as the “Sadr group” after its leader, Muqtada Sadr, the son of a Shia cleric killed by the old Baathist regime. The leaders of the Sadr group remained in Iraq during the Saddam era. They are … opposing other Shia groups whose leaderships were in exile in Iran, chiefly Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior and popular Shia cleric in Iraq. …

If there is a lesson to be drawn from the current unrest, it is not to delay free elections. That would only give extremist factions such as the Sadr group the opportunity to create more mayhem. … A swift election is likely to give a mandate to al-Sistani and show the relative weakness of the Sadr group. …

Asahi Shimbun

Japan’s role in Sri Lanka

TOKYO — … During the general election recently held in Sri Lanka, the biggest campaign issue was how to negotiate for peace with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed Tamil force. The United National Party led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, who held the initiative in conducting peace talks with the Tamil Tigers, suffered a setback in the election.

The party that gained the most in the election was the United People’s Freedom Alliance of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who has been cautious about discussing peace with the Tamil Tigers. Experts in such donor countries as Japan and Norway fear the peacemaking process may grind to a halt.

… The outcome of the election is a matter of concern to Japan. It has provided Sri Lanka — population 19 million — with [U.S. $285 million] to [$475 million] in economic assistance every year. Its assistance to the island country per person is larger than its aid to China and India.

It is true that Japan’s assistance has helped to improve infrastructure and increase agricultural production in Sri Lanka. But Japan has done little other than providing economic assistance to the government in power. Tokyo has not been very keen about intervening to end the armed conflict. Japan should play a larger role in Sri Lanka if Tokyo … intends to work for building peace there. …

The Press

The Rwandan genocide

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — [Tuesday,] on the 10th anniversary of the worst episode of racially motivated killing since World War 2, the United Nations, which ignored the massacre when it occurred, sponsored a function in Geneva to discuss how to respond to such events in future. At that event, Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a plan of action to prevent them. Two weeks ago Annan, who was head of the U.N. peacekeeping department and one of the bureaucrats who failed to respond to increasingly frantic calls for help at the time, accepted institutional and personal blame for the slaughter.

Similar hand-wringing and breast-beating by others in positions of responsibility at the time have been recorded in countless newspaper articles. But although all agree that something must be done to make sure anything similar does not happen again … the difficulties that prevented prompt, effective action then continue now. …

The reluctance to intervene had various causes. America had just withdrawn in disarray from Somalia after its U.N.-sanctioned aid mission went terribly wrong. The Europeans either were compromised by previous commitments to the Hutus, [like] the French, or else not interested. …

But the greatest failure was with the United Nations, whose bureaucrats were paralysed by indecision. … It was an illustration of the fact that unless one or more of the large nations is prepared to act, usually the United States, with or without allies, the tendency is that nothing will be done. …

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