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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 16:34 GMT
World media review: 'The Siege of Seattle'

The protests at the World Trade Organization meeting have been given a mixed reaction by the world's press, with some sympathetic towards the demonstrators and others critical of WTO for not defending globalisation more effectively.

Liberation newspaper in France said "the Great Siege of Seattle" showed little in the way of consistency. "There were gathered together the supporters of numerous and often contradictory demands and accusations, " it said.

Finance Minister Christian Sautter said it would be difficult to win the protesters over. "The great difficulty is to persuade these demonstrators, these non-governmental organisations that it is preferable to have a globalisation with rules than one without rules, in which the law of the strongest prevails," he told La Chaine Info television.

Circus of demonstrations

A commentary in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper said the protests were less a stance against the ugly consequences of globalisation and more "the usual circus of demonstrations by groups of activists who are cultivating their new pet enemy image".

The paper called on the WTO to be less mealy-mouthed in defending globalisation, which it called "the engine of an unprecedented increase and spreading of prosperity".

It accused the opponents of free trade of being advocates of "backwardness and delayed development".

Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs, Francisco Seixas da Costa, a radical of the 1970s, was embarrassed at being on the receiving end of the protesters' wrath, but tried to reassure them that many governments shared their concern.

"I have to tell you something as a man who was involved in many demonstrations in the 70s: this was the first time in my life I found myself protected by riot police. Frankly this was not one of the most pleasant things I have experienced," he told Portuguese radio.

WTO must explains

The New Zealand ambassador to the United States, former Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, said the WTO needed to do a better job of explaining its role if future protests were to be avoided.

Mr Bolger said the protests "highlight the need for the WTO and delegates to explain more explicitly the benefits of free trade," Radio New Zealand reported.

A commentary in the Israeli newspaper, Globes, said "the largest street protests in America since the 1960s" marks the paradoxical victory of free trade, as the protesters would not have bothered 10-15 years ago.

However, it said world leaders ought to pay attention, as the protests are a sign that free trade is not unanimously supported in the industrialised world.

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See also:
 |  World
Exhuman restos en Ciudad JĂșarez
01 Dec 99 |  UK
London's WTO riot hangover
01 Dec 99 |  UK
The group reclaiming the headlines

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