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Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 03:09 GMT
European press review

The rolling out of the razor wire against Albanian guerrillas on the Macedonia-Kosovo border, and of the red carpet for President Mugabe in Paris, give rise to much concern and indignation, respectively.

Elsewhere, the battle against Aids goes to court in South Africa, Poland revisits past sins, and the Taleban vandalizes Afghanistan's heritage.

And there was a time when cows had names, and were quite sensible beasts, not mad at all.

Here they go again?

As Nato ponders whether Yugoslav troops should join its efforts to stop ethnic-Albanian guerrillas from Kosovo attacking neighbouring Macedonia., Austria's Kurier fears the country may be on the brink of ethnic war.

"The clashes provoked by some 200 Albanian extremists... near the border with Kosovo have created an explosive situation," the paper says, and "it is still unclear to what extent the Nato peacekeepers in Kosovo are prepared to intervene".

"The Macedonian Government is fully aware that a bloodbath would jeopardize the peaceful coexistence of Slavs and Albanians in the country," it points out.

Berlin's Die Welt says the tension on Kosovo's borders could be an opportunity for Serbia and Macedonia to demonstrate their maturity and show that they are ready for regional crisis management.

It points out that for many years Macedonia has been seen as an example of stability, an outpost of the West in the heart of darkness.

"Skopje, has understood this chance," the paper says. "It has reinforced its border troops, warned the rebels and closed the border to Kosovo, but it has not allowed itself to be provoked."

The Hungarian Magyar Hirlap warns that the maps of southern Europe may "soon be obsolete".

"The ethnic Albanians making up at least one-third of Macedonia's population never accepted Macedonia as a unitary state," the paper says. "As long as the Kosovo question remains unresolved... so will Macedonia's."

"Federal Yugoslavia in its present form, will soon cease to exist," the paper adds, "and with the end of Yugoslavia the Kosovo question could acquire a whole new dimension."

"For the moment, the presence of international forces will prevent these small conflicts from sending the whole region from the Greek border to Croatia up in flames," the paper concludes.

France's Le Monde sees the decision to move American peacekeepers into the border area as "the first gesture by the Bush administration relating to European security and defence".

The paper contrasts what it calls the new administration's "sudden interest in the region" with its support for a gradual disengagement of K-For troops from Kosovo.

It sees the decision to deploy the marines as also prompted by renewed instability in Bosnia against a background of a rising tide of nationalism, and the "special agreement" signed two days ago between Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serbs.

As for the view from Moscow, Izvestiya describes the escalation of the fighting on the border as a war that was waiting to happen.

It notes that ever since Yugoslav forces were ordered out, analysts have predicted that Kosovo would become a bridgehead in the battle for a "Greater Albania", with Macedonia particularly vulnerable.

"And now that war has begun. A predictable war. A war that was widely expected," the paper says. It takes the view that the only way to stop the fighting is for Nato peacekeepers to close the border with Kosovo. However, "for that to happen there has to be a political decision. And there is no sign of it", it concludes.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, notes that Kosovo Albanians never concealed their dream of a "Greater Albania". It sees the extra patrols by Nato peacekeepers along the Kosovo border as an admission that the "so-called" Kosovo peacekeeping mission is a complete failure and has simply left Albanian fighters free to attack not only Serbia but Macedonia too.

On a more positive note, the paper agrees that Macedonia has received support from Washington and Nato for its armed actions against the Kosovo Albanians, and contrasts this attitude with the open support shown for the Albanians during the Kosovo conflict.

Mugabe and the red carpet

With Paris rolling out the red carpet on Tuesday for the visiting Zimbabwean leader, The Times in London says that President Robert Mugabe, "suffering little more than a passing Gallic shrug over his treatment of political opponents, white farmers, the press and judiciary" has "split the European Union, mocked his domestic critics and added to his own conceit that he is still an important African leader".

On the matter of the Zimbabwean troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, "no one believes that Mr Mugabe has any intention of withdrawal", the paper adds, since "too many returning angry troops could reinforce the opposition".

As for Mr Mugabe's host, France, represented by President Jacques Chirac, the view of The Times is that it "wants to curb Anglophone influence in Africa".

"If Mr Chirac thinks his present manoeuvrings, clearly embarrassing Britain, constitute co-operation, France's talk of a common EU foreign policy is more than ever exposed as a sham," the paper concludes.

A commentator in the leading French daily Le Monde says that while seeing the point of talking to President Mugabe, given Zimbabwe's military role in the Democratic Republic of Congo, "this form of realpolitik must not be at the expense of the people of Zimbabwe, who find themselves under an increasingly heavy yoke of oppression".

"Must we wait for a bloodbath before deploring, in a few well-chosen words, the inability of the Zimbabweans to settle their differences amicably?" the author asks.

"It is high time that... Mugabe was firmly reminded that respect for human rights and for the law-based state... is the minimum requirement for being received as a head of state and treated as an equal," the paper says.

No blood out of stones

Berlin's Die Tageszeitung says the West has no moral right to condemn Afghanistan's Taleban for destroying statues while it turns a blind eye to human misery.

It says those in power in Kabul have left a trail of blood behind them, causing the death of hundreds of thousands of people as well as a massive refugee crisis.

Given the international action taken in the Gulf and in the Balkans, the paper argues that the United Nations and Nato will have some questions to answer concerning their criteria for intervening.

"As long as the West fails to be clear about this," it concludes, "it has no moral right to engage in cultural protests."

Africa and the plague

As a court case brought by the world's leading drug companies against the South African government over its decision to import cheap copies of their products is adjourned until next month, the Italian daily La Stampa highlights the impossibly high costs of treatment for over 25 million Africans infected with HIV.

Countries such as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia, the paper says in an editorial, are forced to make what it calls the " terrible choice" between using "the little aid doled out" by the West "to combat famine or try stem the Aids epidemic".

The paper predicts that, at the present Aids-related death rate, within 10 years Africa will be reduced to "a vast cemetery, with a decimated adult population, and a great mass of orphaned children at the mercy of organ traffickers and local warlords".

Poland: the past is a different country

"As a nation, we can only live in truth," Warsaw's Gazeta Wyborcza quotes Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek as saying in response to recent revelations of a massacre of Jews by Poles in Jedwabne, north-eastern Poland, in 1941.

Although the participation of Poles in the massacre is not being denied by any serious historian, the paper quotes Buzek as saying that "the murder in Jedwabne was done in neither the name of the Polish nation or of the Polish state".

If Poles have the right to be proud of those who saved Jews at the risk - or the cost - of their own lives, they must also recognize the guilt of those who took part in killings, the paper cites the prime minister as stressing.

Putin: to boldly talk into Cyberspace

"Last year, President Vladimir Putin flew in a jet fighter to Chechnya and cruised in a nuclear submarine under Arctic seas," says the Paris-based International Herald Tribune. "On Tuesday night, he entered Cyberspace for the first time."

In the paper's view the Russian leader's hour-long live question-and-answer session on the Internet with ordinary people around the world hour did not break much new ground in conveying his views, especially as "he is already well established as the most talkative president in the country's modern history".

When cows had names

The sight of the burning carcasses of tens of thousands of livestock sacrificed to avert the foot-and-mouth outbreak that hit Britain, reminds a columnist in the French Le Nouvel Observateur that "there was a time when animals were man's companions" and "cows would answer to their own names".

"There is no going back to the old days, but nor can we carry on along this road," the paper says. "It is common sense, not squeamishness, that demands that we change our eating habits and end this total war, this war of extermination that humanity has been waging against the animal kingdom for the past two centuries in the name of progress," the commentary concludes.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

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