What U.S. newspapers are saying

Oct. 25, 2002 at 9:45 AM
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New York Times

Deep in the heart of Texas, the Bush family is offering some high-powered hospitality to Jiang Zemin. In a trip reminiscent of Deng Xiaoping's visit to Houston in 1979, the Chinese president has toured NASA's Johnson Space Center, been feted by George H. W. Bush, the onetime ambassador to Beijing, and spoken at the presidential library in College Station. Today he will visit the presidential ranch in Crawford and enjoy some Texas barbecue with George W. Bush.

The visit, a prelude to this weekend's summit of Pacific Rim leaders in Mexico and a swan song for the 76-year-old Mr. Jiang as he prepares to relinquish power, comes at an opportune moment. From Iraq to North Korea, the two nations face a range of difficult diplomatic challenges. By working together to resolve them, Mr. Bush and Mr. Jiang can consolidate the constructive relationship that has been developing between the United States and China in recent months. ...

Over the weekend, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Cabo San Lucas, Presidents Bush and Jiang will have the opportunity to add Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and South Korea's president, Kim Dae-jung, to their discussions about North Korea. These four countries must present a united front in demanding that Kim Jong Il abandon his nuclear weapons program. President Bush must also bolster Mr. Koizumi's determination to tackle Japan's financial crisis, an ongoing drag to global economic growth.

Washington Post

One woman has died, many others have been injured, and several hundred people have been taken hostage inside a Moscow theater. By last night, their captors had put land mines around the outside of the theater, strapped explosives to themselves and to some of the hostages, and were threatening to kill everybody inside unless Russia pulls its troops out of Chechnya within a week. This is the first crisis of its kind ever to take place in Moscow, and it may well end in tragedy.

It may also make it harder than ever to understand what is really happening in Chechnya, where there are far more than two groups fighting for control. Those close to Aslan Maskhadov, the democratically elected president of Chechnya -- and the leader of the mainstream Chechen rebels -- have loudly denied that he has anything to do with the hostage-taking. They blame, instead, a separatist faction with a reputation for brutality and fanaticism, and possibly with links to Muslim groups abroad. Already, a tape showing their leaders in front of an Arabic-language banner -- Arabic is not spoken in Chechnya -- has somehow made its way onto al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite television station better known for broadcasting the statements of Osama bin Laden.

Even if they prove to be real, the hostage-takers' supposed links to other fanatical groups -- and the Russian media's insistence already that "this is our Sept. 11" -- should not be allowed to obscure the differences between America's war on terrorism and Russia's war against Chechnya. ...

Russia's war in Chechnya is also different because -- unlike America's war on terrorism -- it has a clear political solution. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, could begin negotiating with Mr. Maskhadov tomorrow and could end the war just as easily, if he could muster the political willpower. Paradoxically, ending the war would also make the fight against al Qaida's terrorist network in Chechnya far easier. In the end, it is the Russian government's invasion -- with its systematic bombardment of civilians, its human rights violations and its mass executions -- that has created anarchy in Chechnya, so conducive to al Qaida and its ilk. While the United States must support Mr. Putin during this frightening new crisis, the Bush administration must also do everything it can to persuade the Russians, finally, to confront its true cause.

Los Angeles Times

The United Nations' nickname is "the Hall of Words," so it's no wonder John D. Negroponte, the United State's ambassador to that body, demanded "an added sense of urgency" in the debate over sending weapons inspectors back to Iraq. Translated from the diplomatic, the phrase means, "Get off the dime." The solution: today's planned debate by all 15 Security Council members of the strong resolution the United States introduced Wednesday. ...

The Security Council will debate into next week, but its members should not allow themselves to dawdle beyond that. The French and Russians will probably amend the U.S. resolution, making some phrases vague and more open to interpretation. The United States would be wise to shrug and accept minor softening. What must remain clear is the warning that Iraq will suffer "serious consequences" if it continues to defy the United Nations -- and that those consequences will be more than another round of Security Council chitchat. Let Baghdad understand that it must open all facilities to inspection at a moment's notice, with no interference, from the most ramshackle building to the most opulent presidential compound.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Muscovites have suffered the torments of 70 years of communism and the messy fallout -- the crime, the poverty, the political lurches -- that followed its welcome collapse. Now, they have fallen prey to another predator: urban terrorism. And in the name of fighting this predator, the Russian government actually may be feeding its furies.

On Wednesday, about 40 armed Chechen rebels -- men and women -- took over a musical theater in Moscow, held several hundred people hostage and proclaimed their willingness to die for their cause. ...

The Kremlin should have known by now -- the theater takeover only underlines the point -- that the Chechen rebels are a hardy and even fanatic lot. They are unlikely to be tamed or defeated by military force, any more than the Afghan rebels were. If there is a possibility for a negotiated solution to the war in Chechnya, it ought to be seized before it slips away.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A U.S.-British resolution on Iraq continues to encounter resistance on the U.N. Security Council six weeks after the effort to secure such a declaration was launched. Permanent members France, Russia and China continue to balk on two points: the appropriate rigor of the requirements to be imposed on Iraq, and the authorization of military action if the Iraqis don't cooperate.

Prolonging this debate complicates not only a possible military attack on Iraq but also the preferred alternative of "coercive inspections" of its capacity for producing weapons of mass destruction. It's time for the permanent members to agree on a resolution that they can endorse or, at worst, abstain on. ...

The bottom line is that it is time for the U.N. Security Council chapter of the Iraq affair to be completed and that inspections, now waiting for a new resolution, commence. Inspecting and disarming Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capacity is what this is about. That problem is coming up on its 12th birthday.

(Compiled by United Press International)

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