AMERICAN ELECTION: Trouble all over the world: Clinton's foreign policy challenges

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Peace in


Irish republicans and nationalists believe Mr Clinton's re-election means another four years of close US involvement in attempts to revive the Irish peace process.

These centre on the possibility of a restored IRA ceasefire to replace the one which broke down in February of this year. The Clinton administration has been closely briefed on behind-the-scenes manoeuvring aimed at securing another ceasefire. A re-elected President Clinton can be expected to help pressurise the IRA to declare a new cessation of violence.

Mr Clinton believes his efforts helped bring about the August 1994 ceasefire, and would very much like to be associated with another. His designated US "economic envoy" to Ire- land, former Senator George Mitchell, is rumoured to be in line for a major post in the new administration. Even if he departs, another substantial figure will be despatched to Belfast to carry on his work. David McKittrick

Nato targets Warsaw Pact

Eastern and central Europe will be waiting for further signals from Washington over the enlargement of Nato. The US has been the main driving force for the alliance's early expansion and President Clinton himself said the first invitations to former Warsaw Pact states would be issued next May or June and that the first new members, possibly including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, would accede by Nato's 50th anniversary on 4 April 1999. The US attitude to Nato enlargement will remain unchanged.

The US is used to bilateral negotiations with Russia and will insist that Russian concerns about Nato enlargement are met, even if it means denying early membership to states that are keen to join - the Baltic states, for example. A Nato-Russian charter, which Nato plans to conclude before the invitation to new countries to join, will also meet US national needs, binding all the states of the northern hemisphere together. Christopher Bellamy

Russian obduracy

The US may be preparing to get tougher with Russia over some issues, despite their intention to maintain good relations.

The US deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, last week attacked Russia's "foreign policy elite" for maintaining Cold War stereotypes about America. Mr Talbott appears to have intended his remarks as a warning shot at the Russians, who have upset the Americans on several fronts.

The worst of these came last month, when Russian officials abruptly cancelled a ceremony in Geneva at which both sides were to have signed a three-year agreement permitting the testing of some low-velocity regional anti-missile defence systems.

Nor were they impressed by the frosty reception given to their Defense Secretary, William Perry, when he tried to persuade the Russian lower house of parliament to follow the example of the US Senate, and approve START II, which cuts back long-range nuclear missiles. Phil Reeves

Task force for Bosnia

One of the first decisions the US will have to make is over a new peace implementation force for Bosnia.

Washington refused to countenance any public discussion of a force to succeed I-For while the Presidential campaign was underway, as President Clinton had promised that US troops would be out by 20 December, a date which has now slipped to next March. The Nato Military Committee was to have presented the various options to Nato's ruling Council yesterday, the first possible day after the elections, but this has been postponed until next week.

No foreign military presence will be credible without the US, and the US chief of Nato's Eueopean land command, Gen William Crouch, is expected to head the follow-on force. It is likely that the US will support plans to scale down Bosnia's foreign military presence from 48,000 - including 15,000 US, in three divisions - to about 20,000, in three brigadesChristopher Bellamy.

Trading places

Trade issues fell by the wayside during the election campaign and the business community will expect the President to make a rapid start on them. After all, the business of America is business, as the old saying goes.

Mr Clinton will move quickly to get fast-track legislation from Congress to allow him to negotiate trade treaties with his hands free from legislative interference, an issue that caused clashes between the White House and Congressional Republicans last year.

That would clear the way for him to work out a long-awaited deal with Chile, which would bring it into the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Administration will also want to see progress on bringing China, Russia and the Ukraine into the World Trade Organization.

Now that the election campaign is over, the White House may also take a tougher stand towards Japan. David Usborne

Chinese puzzles

In two weeks' time, the US Secretary of State (whoever that may be) is due to arrive in Peking for the first time since Warren Christopher's disastrous visit in March 1994, when China snubbed him by rounding up leading dissidents. Washington subsequently dropped its policy of tying trade privileges to human rights, and switched to the policy of "constructive engagement".

But the relationship is beset by problems: Taiwan, China's massive trade surplus, Peking's stalled entry to the World Trade Organisation, rampant intellectual property rights piracy, and Chinese exports of nuclear and weapons technology.

President Clinton's most sensitive decision is whether to agree to an exchange of state visits with Jiang Zemin. Mr Jiang badly wants the prestige of a formal invitation to Washington to boost his standing. Mr Clinton may think it prudent to wait until after the handover of Hong Kong to China next July. Teresa Poole

New hope for Africa

The New York Times reported yesterday that the US was weighing a French proposal to send American troops to Central Africa for logistical support in an international force to protect and feed up to 1.4 million refugees in Eastern Zaire. French President Jacques Chirac called on Tuesday for `a force of Europeans and Americans' to avert a humanitarian crisis in Zaire.

Longstanding policy calls for the US to provide transport, communications and logistical support for such a force but use of US troops has been ruled out. However, the crisis has worsened, prompting a flurry of diplomatic activity to deal with both the humanitarian and political aspects of the situation.

The Times said American officials see the use of troops as a last resort. The officials said the French proposal requires considerable refinement, with answers needed to questions of size, purpose and exit strategy, the newspaper reported.

The Israeli problem

For weeks Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has been accusing Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, of delaying an agreement on Hebron until after the American election. There is something in this, though Mr Netanyahu may also be eager for his own reasons to delay redeployment in Hebron while blaming the Palestinians. In any case he wants to confine redeployment to that city and not to reduce Israeli control in the West Bank as promised by the previous Israeli government.

Safely back in the White House, will Mr Clinton now put pressure on Israel? The administration tried hard enough to keep Mr Netanyahu out of office and he has lived up to their worst fears. But American pressure, if applied at all, is not likely to be great. The American Jewish lobby is too powerful inside the administration and out. Probably Mr Netanyahu, himself off for a skiing holiday in the US, has little to fear. Patrick Cockburn