Monitor; On the road to stability
All the News of the World; War in the Balkans Jonathan Aitken `Hannibal' European elections `Chickengate'
Saturday 12 June 1999
World reaction to the end of hostilities in the Balkans as a peace agreement is signed and the Serbs pull out of Kosovo
WHAT KIND of intervention and by whom can it be justified? There is still no norm agreed upon. That was borne out by the fact that the Kosovo peace accord ended up having to find a legal basis in a Security Council resolution. China and Russia, which have ethnic problems of their own, were skittish because of Nato's action. Japan, which is obliged to provide military assistance to the United States under the new defence co-operation guideline laws, cannot be indifferent either. The community of nations will have to provide huge assistance to rebuild Kosovo and other parts of Yugoslavia. The suspension of air strikes is only a first step toward stabilisation of the Balkan region, which has long been called the powder keg of Europe.
Palm Beach Post
ADDING RUSSIAN troops to the Kosovo peacekeepers makes the peace plan more acceptable to Milosevic. But giving them a role makes the plan worse. After failing to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Nato is pledging to protect refugees returning home. The refugees won't go back unless they feel safe and because Russia has been so supportive of Milosevic, armed Russians will not make refugees forget armed Serbs. No one knows how long Nato forces have to stay in Kosovo. Nato has no way of making Milosevic pay for the ethnic Albanians his troops killed. Nato can't stop Milosevic from claiming victory. Nato also can't make peace quickly without giving Russia a role.
AS IN most wars, there are many losers and very few winners to this latest armed struggle in the Balkans. The obvious losers are the hundreds of thousands of Kosovars who are subjected to untold suffering. Now that the Yugoslav leadership has agreed to the EU-Russian plan, we hope that the international community will soon put together a truce force that will see the repatriation of all Kosovo refugees.
Corriere Della Sera
PROLONGED OCCUPATIONS and the power of Italian television have taught Albanians our language and they've invested their hopes in this country. Not only do they long to reach "the promised land", they count on our economic protection and view us almost as relatives. Once the war in Kosovo has been extinguished, it's inevitable that Italy will take responsibility for Albania. So let's be careful to weigh our load against the economic costs and political pitfalls. These include the risks of the KLA and the power of the Albanian mafia, when already four regions of Italy with their own mafia seem only just governable.
THE PACKAGE to end the war in Kosovo could still break in several places. Not only is Kosovo itself a minefield, but the agreement with Russia also contains explosive material. There is no clarity, for instance, about a Russian contingent. The West must prevent the Russians from having their own zone, as this would be the start of a partition of Kosovo. The UN has to assess its role correctly. Russia and Yugoslavia will insist on UN responsibility, but after this war it is obvious that only Nato can be the basis of order in Kosovo.
NATO HAS attacked a sovereign country in clear violation of international law and without the authorisation of the UN. Yet Nato has no qualms about asserting that the war was fought on behalf of the "international community". Its spin doctors in Brussels repeated that magical phrase time and again, often with a straight face, even when China and India - which make up about half of the global population - have spoken out in no uncertain terms that they are opposed to the bombing. The Kosovo war goes to prove, once again, that the rich and powerful will continue to call the shots on global and internal affairs of nations.
WHILE PARADING peace, Nato is prepared to "cleanse" Kosovo of Serb and other non-Albanian civilians. Any Russian "co-operating" with Nato in Kosovo will be seen as an ally of "ethnic cleansers" by many back home. The Kremlin clique may indeed get some more Western credit as the price of capitulation. But as happened last summer, the new billions will soon evaporate and the regime will collapse. Almost all Russians, especially the Russian military, increasingly believe that Yeltsin's continued presence in the Kremlin is a terrible liability, a handicap for Russia. The country and its military may simply not wait for elections to get Yeltsin out.
Opinion about the sentencing of the former Tory cabinet minister to 18 months in prison for perjury
SOME PEOPLE have expressed surprise that I am still in one piece after being so torn to shreds in the onslaught of media vilification and castigation I received at the height of my dramas. A great deal of the criticism of me was vitriolic; some of it was vicious; and I deserved most of it. (Jonathan Aitken)
JONATHAN AITKEN has been convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and it is therefore right that he should go to prison. With an Oscar Wilde-like urge for self-destruction, Aitken pushed on with the libel action when he did not have to. Through a strange darkness in his character, he seemed to become more self-righteous as his originally small and almost forgivable lie about his stay at the Ritz Hotel grew into a huge falsehood. What makes a man draw "the sword of truth" from its scabbard when he knows what he says is false? His former constituents and colleagues, not to mention his friends and family, have every right to feel betrayed.
ONE CAN debate the severity of the sentence. One can protest that our ideas about crime, punishment and rehabilitation are little more developed than our laws protecting free speech. But one cannot dispute that it was right for his crime to be properly acknowledged and appropriately punished. It is undoubtedly a tragedy for him and for his family. But if his sentence teaches others the risks of abusing the democratic bargain which underpins all our liberties, then Mr Aitken may unwittingly have served the cause of free speech once more.
NOBODY WOULD lightly wish a prison sentence on anyone but Mr Aitken deserved one. He was in a position of responsibility and he lied - perjuring himself and cajoling his daughter into committing perjury, too. There cannot be one rule for the rich and well-connected and another for the poor and friendless. Justice has been done - but this is no cause for gloating.
THE MESSAGE from this sordid affair is clear. Libel is not a game for the rich and powerful to deploy as a protective and financially lucrative shield. It is a serious business where the only winner is the truth. Aitken came within a day of parading his own 16-year-old daughter in court to lie for him under oath. That is the sort of man The Guardian exposed. And for that we, and you, should applaud them.
MY FATHER told a lie about who paid a hotel bill in 1993. At a crucial moment in his libel case against The Guardian, I backed him up by signing an unsworn witness statement. I recognise that it was wrong to do this but, at the time, I didn't understand the implications of my action. Next week, I will be 19. Six years of my short life have been dramatically affected by this whirlwind of newspaper attacks, libel cases, persecutions, prosecution, arrests, policemen, headlines, television pictures, courtroom dramas, divorce, bankruptcy and jail. Yet, under the pressure of a great tragedy, I have survived. The whole saga has made me a much nicer person. In career terms, I am hoping to do great things with my life. I'll bet the same goes for my father, too. (Victoria Aitken)
THIS TIME all daring came to naught/ Cos Jonathan had quite forgot/ His evidence was shot to bits/ By his wife's absence from the Ritz./ Since then, the furies have pursued/ A man whose talent to do good/ Was ended by his fatal pride./ How he must wish he never lied.
Reviews following the publication of Thomas Harris's novel
`Hannibal', the sequel to `Silence of the Lambs'
IT SEEMS to me that, in Hannibal, Harris has surpassed himself. It has wit, erudition, golden dialogue and it does that thing most novels can't do: it describes almost constant action. I'm prepared to bet that Observer readers won't pick up a more compelling novel this year. (Robert McCrum)
ALL BRETT Easton Ellis's characters were ciphers, who flickered briefly to life only when they were copulating or dying. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling are much more realistic; besides, Thomas Harris quotes from Dante's Inferno and from the Bible, thus giving reviewers the kind of reference points they appreciate. And this is one of the answers which admirers of Harris will give to people like me when we wonder aloud at a society which elevates to the highest pinnacles of culture a book which sets out utterly to dehumanise its characters and, by extension, us. (Christopher Hudson)
WHAT KIND of novel is this? Forget Patricia Cornwell, forget PD James and James Ellroy. Think instead of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. Hannibal's plot is Baroque: it is only Harris's ironic skill that keeps it from tipping over into the ridiculous. Harris assumes the reader gets the joke: before we meet Dr Fell we bump into two federal agents called Burke and Hare. Harris has Lecter born in Eastern Europe, his father a count: his pulse never rises, savage animals neither attack nor fear him. Lecter is not, in any strict sense, a man, and Harris is artist enough to allow this. (Erica Wagner)
The Daily Telegraph
IF HARRIS'S new book is as good as it is expected to be, readers will have a reminder of why novels still matter in an age dominated by the cinema. On paper Lecter is wittier, more complex and more frightening than any actor could convey on screen. He seems not merely fictional but a true embodiment of the "Hungry Gorge of the Human Heart". In other words, there is something of Lecter lurking in each of us, and we take guilty pleasure in rooting for him. (Michael Shelden)
Comment on the elections for the European Parliament
IN 40 years the Europe of the financial markets and the single currency has been created. It's made us wealthier but that's not enough. In the face of the great single market of industry and high finance we need a strong umpire, one who protects the weaker sectors of society. The EC has insufficient powers, which are often circumnavigated or boycotted. Only an authoritative political player can give new impetus to Europe of the rules. This is the historic mission of the Parliament of Strasbourg, for which we will on Sunday elect 87 Italian deputies.
THE WAR in Kosovo is over-shadowing all European topics, which are hard enough in normal times to get the British to talk about. The topics, however, which do make it are, without exception, anti-Brussels and are poison for any kind of convergence with Europe. Then there is the economy. The fall of the euro puts the British off and allows them to congratulate themselves on their destiny: "Thank God we don't belong to that disabled club..."
BLAIR AND Schroder knew that the date of publication of their manfesto was as important as its content. Making it public just before the European elections showed not only a lack of accord with Jospin's line but also served to warn him: he can't count on them to follow the French line, he should rally for a social-liberal Europe if he wants its support and he should make some real choices instead of hedging. In one swoop France is weakened within European social democracy.
European press reaction to the food
scare sweeping Belgium
SERIOUS ACCUSATIONS have been made in this affair. The ministers seem to have seriously misjudged the gravity of the problem, being overly preoccupied with their electoral campaigns. These malfunctions are too typical in Belgium. The contents of our plates, like the content of the air we breathe, has to become a priority for a state expected to find for itself an efficient role and dependable practice. And that's before we even begin to count the exorbitant cost to the agriculture sector of such blunders.
ENOUGH! EUROPE and food scandals - a long and inglorious chapter in the history of the free market. This time it's dioxin, a mega-poison. How did it get there? Is there more? No one has a precise answer to these questions. Brussels has shown excessive zeal in regulating every kind of nonsense, from the size of apples to the curvature of bananas. Yet poisoned food and animal fodder are sloshing around Europe without hindrance. What a testimony to the incompetence of Brussels' creative regulators.
ALL THE ingredients are assembled to make Chicken a la dioxine a serious European matter. We don't even know the extent of the contamination. It comes under the same umbrella as uncertainties about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - linked to a worry about productivity pushed to the absolute maximum. European governments have an urgent need for transparency. Without some transparency they will face unpleasant investigations and responsibilities.
NEW ZEALAND'S grape vintage has again broken records. Wine Institute chief executive Philip Gregan said that the 1999 vintage was 79,700 tonnes, beating the previous highest vintage, in 1998, by 1,400 tonnes. Mr Gregan said that the record vintage was welcome because it would help supply the rapidly increasing international demand for New Zealand wine. The record would not stay for long, he predicted. "With the vineyard area expanding by around 500 hectares a year, the expectation is that future vintages will quickly eclipse the 1999 tonnage," he said.
Times of India
Three robbers who entered an industry ministry official's residence in south-west Delhi last week, were trapped and forced to surrender by more than 250 area residents... The three youths, aged between 22 and 26 years, had entered the house by breaking open a lock at the rear door of the building and were busy collecting the booty, when neighbours Mr Singh and his wife, having spotted the trio, raised an alarm. He said that the robbers had panicked after realising they had been locked in from outside and began shouting that they were armed with guns and knives and that they would kill anyone who blocked their way.
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