12th October 1997


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Nobel Peace Prize winner lambastes Clinton

BRUSSELS, Saturday - Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was intended to press the U.S. to sign a global ban on mines, one of the campaign’s founders said on Friday.

“The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for that purpose. It’s an incredibly powerful way of piling on the pressure before the Ottawa Treaty,” George Dallemagne, director of Handicap International-Belgium, told a news conference in Brussels.

Handicap International, a Franco-Belgian charity, was one of the six organisations — three European, three American — which created the ICBL in 1992. It now has over 1,000 member organisations in over 60 countries.

At a conference in Oslo last month, more than 100 countries spent 18 days hammering out the text for a global treaty to outlaw mines and fund costly de-mining operations.

The United States, Russia and China have refused to ratify the treaty, due to be signed in Ottawa, Canada, in December.

“Even without the U.S. we will have over 100 countries (signing). We’re creating a new international standard. (The U.S.) can’t stay outside. They’ll wait until the day before but they will sign,” Dallemagne predicted.

“Public opinion in the U.S. is important. The States won’t want to find themselves in the same club as China,” he said.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Erik Derycke, whose country was the first to outlaw the production and use of landmines, said on Friday he expected the U.S. to relent.

“For many countries this Nobel Prize is embarrassing... for landmine producers, but also for countries who continue to oppose (a ban),” Derycke said.

But the White House later denied U.S. President Bill Clinton felt pressurised by the prize to the ICBL and its co-ordinator Jody Williams, herself an American.

“The president is absolutely rock-solid confident that he’s got the right approach that protects our interests and works in the interest of eliminating the scourge of landmines,” White House spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters.

Clinton said after rejecting the treaty in September that signing it would compromise the safety of U.S. troops, but that he was ordering the Defence Department to develop alternatives that would let the United States eliminate anti-personnel landmines from its arsenal by 2006.

Anne Capelle, the head of Handicap International-Belgium’s mines operation, said she did not expect Russia or China to sign the treaty in December but there was hope, especially if the U.S. came on board, that they would agree in five years’ time.

The European Commission, one of the largest donors of aid for de-mining, welcomed the Nobel award as “a very high achievement”.

Capelle said she expected the $1 million prize would be spent first on efforts by the ICBL to encourage as many countries as possible to sign and ratify the Ottawa Treaty.

Here comes the nuclear terrorist

The fuss over Iran — the major investment by the French oil company, total, and the alleged indirect support of Russia for Iran’s nuclear bomb programme — is taking our eyes off the real ball.

It was the same, three years ago when CIA’s leaks about North Korea’s bomb ambitions were part of an effort to steamroller President Bill Clinton into ordering the bombing of North Korea’s nuclear installations.

The real issue in terms of imminent danger both then and now is the Russian mafia. “The director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, has warned that Russian organised crime networks pose a menace to US national security and has asserted that there is now greater danger of an nuclear attack by some outlaw groups than there was by the Soviet Union during the cold war,” reported the Washington Post last week.

In conversation, Munir Ahmed Khan, the former chairman of the world’s nuclear watchdog body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirms that opinion here is moving in the same direction as Mr. Freeh’s.

Mr. Khan commenting on the recent allegations made by former Russian General and national security advisor, Alexander Lebed, that the mafia had stolen Soviet-era nuclear suitcase bombs, says that if this is true they would be useable, contrary to statements made by President Boris Yeltsin’s government. “Competent nuclear scientists of which there are many out of work and in economic difficulties could be hired to keep them operational.”

Mr. Khan knows a thing or two about undercover bomb work. he masterminded, against all the odds, the clandestine manufacture of Pakistan’

Iran, even if it is trying to develop a nuclear bomb, North Korea, if it has ever been, are both unlikely to ever use them. “Rogues,” they may be. Suicidal they are not. Both live in neighbourhoods where a move to deploy such weapons would be met with a totally debilitating blitzkrieg. As Pakistan does, these countries would keep their nukes in their background, partly deterrent, partly prestige items.

The Russian mafia — and the people they do business with — are another matter. If they do trade in nuclear weapons the danger will not be with governments with a fixed address where

Washington, Moscow, London Paris or even Beijing know when to retaliate, it will be a freelance terrorist group with no fixed abode, determined to use blackmail to secure a particular objective.

It could be to force the withdrawal of the Turkish army from Kurdish areas, Israel from its occupied areas in Palestine or to demand the release of Colombian drug barons.

Mr. Freeh promised drastic steps to “prevent and detect” nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Russian criminal gangs. Yet at the same time he admitted that the Russian syndicates with former KGB officers in the hierarchy run the most sophisticated criminal operations ever seen in the US.

What drastic steps does Mr. Freeh have up his sleeve? The former CIA director John Deutch in the new issue of Foreign Policy, commenting on the statement that “the US government is effectively organized to address the terrorist threat,” said two words —”Ha, ha.” Every policy maker should read this article. It makes the plain obvious — America is wide open to nuclear terrorist blackmail. Nevertheless, the White House is being very careful to keep the lid on the debate, for fear it could unnerve and alarm public opinion.

Their caution and reticence is understandable. For decades Washington justified the possession of nuclear weapons as creating a stable balance of power. All through he cold war years it paid little or no attention to the now known dangers of the atmospheric testing or those who warned that nuclear weapons were a Faustian bargain and would inevitably fall into the wrong hands or, as General George Lee butler, the former head of US Strategic Command warned in January, be used by accident.

Moreover, Washington London, Paris, Bonn Rome, Ottawa and Tokyo (the G-7) missed the historic opportunity of the century to put Russia the right way up when they refused to provide the financial wherewithal to enable Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to make what would have been a relatively smooth transition from rigid communism to a more liberal set-up, something short of today’s wild-west capitalism. They repeated their mistake, when they, led by President George Bush, refused Russian President Yeltsin help in the late 1991, Washington sending as the sold emissary a Treasury under-secretary whose job was to insist to the new Russian government that they honour the old Soviet debt. Only 2 percent of NATO defence spending would have done the job and avoided nearly eight years of economic turmoil and, not least, the emergence of the mafia that now threatens us.

No doubt, Washington would like to deal with this grave crisis without having to throw into relief its past errors. Common sense suggests the White House is working with Moscow to try and quietly buy off the would-be nuclear terrorists.

This column is syndicated to and appears today in Bangkok Post, Boston Globe, Dawn, Japan Times, Los Angeles Times, Manila Chronicle, New Straits Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Statesman, Toronto Star.

Uncle Sam staying on top

The job goes with the title the sole superpower plays Globecop. In a way it started with President George Bush and DESERT STORM. An oil-man from the West, Bush knew that President Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait on the grounds that the sheikdom was once part of historical Iraq, was nothing less than a characteristically daring oil-grab by Iraq’s strongman which could change the balance of power in OPEC. Only Hollywood’s scriptwriters and Texas columnists could dismiss it as the compulsive gesture of a ‘Thief of Baghdad’, the title of a box office success.

The Iraqi leader’s daring adventure challenged the cartels, the majority American, which controlled production and price.

It is not entirely clear still whether President Saddam expected Russian help in case it developed into a Big Power, cold war confrontation. Mikhail Gorbachev did visit Baghdad for high-level talks but only to warn Saddam against any grand adventures that led to superpower face-to-face. Already in serious internal crisis, the Communist superpower could help nobody, treaties or no treaties. The U.S. on the other hand could count on OPEC’s anti-Communist, anti-Saddam sheikdoms and Egypt, the major military power in the Arab world.

Though a glorious victory, DESERT STORM alas, did not help President Bush to win a second term. Nor did perestroika, glasnost etc help Mikhail Gorbachev to keep his job.

Saddam Hussein, already nicknamed the THIEF OF BAGHDAD, a movie title, did, remain President. And still is. Not so Gorbachev, perestroika, glasnost etc, notwithstanding. The Soviet Union lost the Baltic states, and soon other republics from Ukraine, the most important, to the Central Asian (Muslim) republics.

The new leaders in this region have been described as “Eurasianists” by Sergei Karaganov, Deputy Director, Institute of Europe, of the Academy of Sciences, Moscow. Any hostile moves by the West could drive these Euro Asianists into alliance not with Asia as they imply but with less democratic and responsible regimes in Asia... first with Iraq and North Korea and then probably with Iran” (Taleban) last week claimed Afghanistan’s seat at the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Washington on Wednesday announced that it would persuade its European partners to “toughen its stance towards Tehran, its new democracy, notwithstanding. US and European experts will meet on October 28 in Ottawa to “discuss guidelines towards more transatlantic co-operation in tacking the ISLAMIC regime”.

Already however these anti-Iran, anti-Islam moves by the U.S. may alienate anti-Islam. Anti-Communism can no longer give American foreign policy the coherence and dynamism it possessed in the Cold War. In quest of a substitute, will Washington make another “ism” (Islamic fundamentalism) the new demon? The ironies are plain enough. At the recent elections the Iranian voter proved that there were other political-ideological options. What’s more the anti-Iran U.S. drive has quite quickly led to conflicts within the western camp. TOTAL, the giant French company, has signed a two billion dollar contract for exploration of Iran’s South Pars offshore gas field. It has two partners in this large venture....GAZPROM (Russian) and PETRONAS (Malaysian). Will the White House intervene to reverse a decision that is not likely to please allies or win friends. Or will the President join the chorus Iran, the sponsor of International Terrorism.

The United States cannot forgive Ayatollah Khomeini, a lonely exile in Paris, or the Iranian people for toppling the “King” they dubbed ‘the American Shah’, man who presented himself as the Shaenshah (King of Kings) and Aryamehr (the Light of the Aryans).

In the end, the White House and the “sole superpower” had humble pie for breakfast. Mr. Thierry Demarest “brushed off U.S. threats” and signed the two billion dollar contract while the U.S. warned TOTAL may face sanctions under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. But this is not just a US-France conflict. As American columnists pointed out this could affect transatlantic trade relations:

Libyan issue

Yes, Libya is the other favourite target. But why Libya? True, it has oil. So what? The United States has oil too, and a huge reserve! The answer of course is “terrorism” (a promoter of ) and oil.

But what have been consequences of this policy? Most recently, the Arab League meeting in Cairo and the resolutions passed on “the unjust sanctions imposed on Jamahiriya. At its 108th session, the Arab Foreign Ministers passed the following resolutions:

1) In confirming the past resolution with regard to the solidarity with the Great Jamahiriya, and in support of the effort to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

2) To urge the three European countries to respond positively to the international and regional efforts to reach at a solution on the basis of international law, justice, dialogue and understanding. Co-ordination between the two Committees (7 Arab countries and 5 African countries) to pursue the efforts and to guarantee the acceptance of the Arab League and the Organisation of African Unity resolutions.

The Arab League Council confirmed its past resolutions in support of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

New conflicts

The Middle-East is Arab (except for Israel, a state created by the United Nations on an American initiative); it is here that the Prophet Mohammed preached a doctrine that has become one of the world’s great religions; it is the largest producer of strategic oil.

The Cold War is over, and the Arab states can no longer rely on a U.S.S.R., a countervailing force that made non alignment an effective foreign policy. And yet, the United States is not omnipotent. It is exposed to many pressures that often expose its vulnerabilities. It has failed for instance to topple Fidel Castro or bump him off.

Besides, its European allies have interests that often lead to EU-U.S. collision course. This is most evident in the sphere of economics, trade most of all. And then there is Russia, and increasingly China, tomorrow’s superpower.

A sign of the times was President Boris Yeltsin’s indignant denial just the other day about nuclear weapons.

“We are being accused of supplying Iran with nuclear or ballistic technologies. There is nothing from the truth. I use this occasion to refute decisively these rumours.”

Communism may be a lost cause but communist and ex-communist countries, China or Russia could assist the new ‘ism’ which the sole superpower has identified as its new adversary, Islamic fundamentalism.

U.N. hears about bananas, El Nino, end to wars

By Anthony Goodman

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The time has come, the U.N. said, to talk of many things — of bananas, greed and calendars, and what El Nino brings.

These topics and others, from greedy currency traders to a brand new calendar and a brand new century free of wars, popped up during the U.N. General Assembly’s general debate this year. The debate —really a series of monologues — serves as a sort of annual town meeting where participants can give vent to their frustrations, voice their hopes for the future and say what should be done about both.

This year, 176 of the United Nations’ 185 members took part in the debate, which lasted just over two weeks and involved 18 heads of state, one crown prince (Monaco), 14 prime ministers, 111 foreign ministers and several dozen other dignitaries and ambassadors.

There was the usual survey of world trouble spots. To no one’s surprise, Indians and Pakistanis, Greeks and Turks, Arabs and Israelis and North and South Koreans found little had happened in the past year to change their opinions of their historic adversaries.

Along with the usual references to conflict and peacemaking, disarmament and development, the focus this year was on U.N. reform. Almost everyone referred favorably to a package of measures proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan designed to pummel the world body into shape to tackle the challenges of the new millennium.


But, tucked into the recesses of the speech-making marathon, were a number of more unusual topics.

For a steady stream of Caribbean leaders, the issue of greatest immediate concern was a recent decision by the World Trade Organization threatening to end preferential treatment accorded their banana growers by the European Union.

This was “tantamount to an act of war,” declared the U.N. ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, Patrick Lewis.

The secretary-general should visit the region and see for himself how it was threatened by a “conflagration of a magnitude capable of engulfing the entire hemisphere,” said the Prime Minister of Dominica, Edison James. A concern of Peruvian Foreign Minister Eduardo Ferrero Costa was the dangerous weather phenomenon known as El Nino — The Christ Child in Spanish since it was originally associated with the Christmas season.

El Nino disrupts the oceanic-atmospheric system in the Pacific Ocean and causes severe economic and environmental damage in western South America and elsewhere in the world. Peru’s foreign minister proposed that the General Assembly set up a global program, to which his and other affected countries could contribute data, in hopes of being able to mitigate the effects of the freak weather conditions.


Malayasian Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was irked by turmoil in the currency and stock markets of a number of southeast Asian countries, including his own. He blamed “currency speculators, indeed manipulators, who, driven by sheer greed,” took advantage of fragile developing economies.

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