- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2004

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

ASAHI SHIMBUN

Vladimir Putin’s re-election



TOKYO — On the night Vladimir Putin was re-elected president of Russia, taking over 70 percent of the votes, an enormous fire broke out in a historic building adjoining the Kremlin towers.

It destroyed the Central Manezh Exhibition Hall, one of the most precious examples of historical architecture in Russia. It was built in the 19th century to commemorate Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s army. The fire was apparently caused by a short circuit.

After securing another four years in office, Putin proudly ticked off his achievements, pointing to high economic growth, recovery of social stability and overall national strength during his first term. But the devastating fire provided graphic evidence of the poor state of Russia’s social services, which cannot even protect national cultural treasures, and underscored the harsh reality Putin must deal with as the nation’s leader.

Rapidly recovering from a financial crisis six years ago, the Russian economy has been expanding steadily in recent years, posting heady 7 percent growth last year. Wages and pension benefits are now being paid, more or less without delays.

Russia’s economy once shrank to half its size in the Soviet era amid economic turmoil caused by drastic free-market reforms implemented following the collapse of the Soviet Union. …

Putin should be given credit for returning economic and political stability to his country during his first term. Undoubtedly, his “strong-arm” government won overwhelming support because of its remarkable success in restoring order. …

Clarin

The Spanish elections

BUENOS AIRES — First and foremost, the Spanish elections were an exemplary civic retort to the terrorist threat. Spaniards turned out massively at the polls and in so doing, showed not only that they are willing to demonstrate in the streets in repudiation of terrorism, but to use the instruments of democracy to make their will manifest. … The voters awarded victory to the Socialist Party candidate, Jose Luis Zapatero. The outcome underlined voter intent to punish the official Popular Party candidate for presumed government manipulation of information about the origins of the attack before the elections. … The election outcome is sure to have repercussions on other political arenas. … Zapatero has promised a frontal assault on terrorism, but also said he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

Jerusalem Post

Using children for combat

JERUSALEM — Israel was shaken Monday. It wasn’t because of a terrorist atrocity actually perpetrated, but because of one thankfully pre-empted. Front pages were dominated by the story of 11-year-old Abdullah Quran, who carried a powerful bomb in his schoolbag, replete with a load of metal pellets and other assorted bits of hardware calculated to rip through human flesh. When they opened the bag, soldiers found, alongside the explosives, the boy’s Spiderman doll.

Abdullah wasn’t merely a courier. He was, unknowingly, a guided missile. A cell phone connected to the 10-kilo bomb he lugged was primed to detonate the bomb by remote control, if his dispatcher considered it expedient.

This is not “just” child abuse, but child sacrifice. It is almost as if Palestinian terrorists are trying to reach new depths of war crimes, matched only by previous uses of ambulances and pregnant women to carry out terrorist attacks. …

In the past three years, 29 suicide-bombings were perpetrated by youths under 18. Another 22 were killed while attacking Israelis. Forty other teens were arrested while trying to do likewise. …

Journalist Huda al-Hussein asked in the London-based [newspaper] Sharq al-Awsat already three years ago: “What kind of independence is built on the blood of children, while the leaders, including their own kids and grandkids, remain safe?” Good question.

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