For the past four years, a conflict has raged in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has amounted to an African world war. At various times it has drawn soldiers from seven nations into a country the size of Western Europe. It has killed more than 2 million people, either directly or through disease and starvation.
On Tuesday a major step was taken toward ending the carnage. The presidents of Congo and neighboring Rwanda signed an agreement to pull Rwanda's troops out of Congo. Reasons for skepticism abound, but the deal, supervised by South African leaders and signed in Pretoria, offers the best hope yet for ending the war. The United Nations and international donors must help, and pressure the countries to keep their commitments. ...
The deal signed this week commits Rwanda and Congo to take reciprocal steps: Rwanda is to pull out its troops and Congo is to disarm and assemble the Rwandan anti-government fighters it has sheltered. The United Nations then brings them back to Rwanda or a third country. The U.N. has only 4,000 soldiers in Congo, so more will be needed. The deal's timetable is wildly unrealistic, and both parties may well be insincere. But if the global community's leaders, especially the donors Rwanda depends on, treat it as real, the accord can become a useful force for peace.
It was only a 15-minute meeting in a lounge over coffee, but Secretary of State Colin Powell's encounter yesterday with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun broke an impasse between the two countries that had extended the length of the Bush administration. It's not clear where the renewed dialogue will go: Mr. Powell made clear the administration's insistence that any further talks cover North Korea's missile exports, its deployment of conventional military forces near the South Korean border and its adherence to a 1994 agreement on freezing its nuclear program. Pyongyang may not be willing to accept such an agenda, which extends well beyond the topics of its previous dialogue with the Clinton administration. And even if talks continue, it's not clear that Mr. Bush's competing foreign and defense advisers have agreed on what, if anything, they should aim to achieve through talks with a country the president included in his "axis of evil." ...
Any such warming in relations between North Korea and the United States probably will have to begin with Mr. Kim (Jong Il). He will have to convince a highly skeptical Bush administration that he is genuinely ready to give up the production and sale of weapons of mass destruction, accept international monitoring of his nuclear materials and facilities, ease tensions along the border, and begin to liberalize his regime. These would be large steps, but not unreasonable ones for a government that is seeking to join the international community. If Mr. Kim can show readiness to take them, the Bush administration would finally be forced to decide whether it is prepared to negotiate seriously with North Korea -- or whether Mr. Powell's coffee break was just a hollow gesture.
Wednesday's deadly terrorist bombing in a crowded Jerusalem cafeteria was as predictable as it was tragic. From the moment Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave the go-ahead for an F-16 to bomb the apartment building of a Hamas terror mastermind in Gaza last week -- a raid that killed its intended victim, Salah Shehadeh, but also 14 other people, including nine children -- it was clear that the assassination would be avenged.
On Tuesday a Palestinian teenager blew himself up at a falafel stand in downtown Jerusalem, and two Israeli settlers were slain when they entered a Palestinian village to sell diesel fuel. Israeli authorities warned that 60 terrorist attacks by Palestinians were believed to be in the works.
After Wednesday's lunchtime blast at the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus, Hamas, the radical Islamist group that had vowed to avenge the killing of its military chief in Gaza, claimed credit.
Such acts of retaliation and revenge have become an all-too-familiar pattern in the Middle East. Whenever the forces of reconciliation seem close to making even small progress, someone on one side or the other torpedoes it. ...
Yet the ongoing pattern of strike and counterstrike seriously imperils ... fledgling bilateral, regional and international efforts. There is no reason to think the pattern will end soon. That said, someone has to break the cycle.
Des Moines Register
The suggestion that the United States would attack Iraq has been lingering for months. Following Sept. 11, the president identified Iraq as part of an "axis of evil." Then, early this year, the Washington Post reported Bush issued an executive order authorizing the use of lethal force to capture Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. This week, members of Congress are being briefed about threats from Iraq as well as possible responses and consequences of a U.S. attack. Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked publicly about the threat of Iraq and implied a substantial military undertaking, including ground troops.
If action against Iraq is being considered by the Bush administration, the president must do more to explain his reasoning to the American people. No link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks has been established. Though Saddam has long been perceived as a threat, why is it necessary to go after him now? Is it clear he poses a direct threat to U.S. security? Why, after eight relatively quiet years, is hunting down Saddam a priority when the United States is already up to its ears in military operations? ...
It's up to Bush to connect the dots of his military strategy. He must do that before entering into yet another conflict, lest this "war on terrorism" start to look like a license to attack any country without explanation.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In Israel, beset by terror and anger, university campuses have been among the few places where adults and young people -- Israeli, Arab, American and those from other countries -- could get together and discuss the Middle East's tangle of complex issues in an atmosphere of relative calm and civility.
One of these oases was devastated Wednesday when a bomb exploded in a crowded cafeteria at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The lunchtime explosion killed seven people and injured more than 80 others.
Hamas, the infamous group responsible for so much of the suffering and death in the region, claimed responsibility for the attack. Its spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, linked the bombing to Israel's air strike in Gaza last week, which killed one of Hamas' military chieftains, Salah Shehada, and 14 civilians. Yassin said Israel should have expected the reprisal and, in a vile perversion of logic and morality, said the Israeli government was responsible for it. ...
Ending the cycle of violence is, of course, what the United States and other Western powers seek. But convincing Hamas and an Israeli government that believes it must respond to every Palestinian bombing is no easy matter.
Question: Exactly where is the evidence of any moderating influence on Palestinian radical groups by Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab nations that claim to be eager for a peaceful, two-state solution in the Middle East?
(Compiled by United Press International)