Mon, 15 Sep 2003

President Bush's speech

The central theme of U.S. President George W. Bush's address was a request to Congress for a supplementary budget of US$87 billion to maintain a troop presence in Iraq while the reconstruction process continues.

At the same time, Bush characterized Iraq as 'the central front' in the fight against terrorism and asked Japan and countries in Europe and the Middle East to provide financial assistance, which he characterized as a 'contribution.'

It is just too much to ask other nations to provide financial contributions without specifying the anticipated future of Iraqi self-rule and discussing ways to achieve it.

There must be a clear change of direction to win wide international support, rather than have everything decided in Washington, and have the United States lead the rest of the world. Such a policy change will also strengthen the coalition against terrorism.

Japan should not simply agree to any request for financial assistance just because it comes from the United States. The precondition for Japan and other members of the international community to begin providing all-out help with Iraq's reconstruction is that there be a clearly established plan from an interim Iraqi government to begin rebuilding their nation with the cooperation of the United Nations.

-- Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo

Europe's new constitution

If all goes according to plan, Europe's new constitution could be settled within a matter of months, yet the government still insists that this momentous step will amount to little more than a tidying-up exercise.

Yesterday, (Foreign Secretary) Jack Straw published a White Paper laying down its "red lines" for the negotiations on the final text that will open in Rome next month. He also reiterated the government's central concern in this whole muddled process, namely that the new constitution will on no account be put to a vote of the British people. In neither endeavor was he convincing. ...

Mr. Straw repeated that the constitution contains nothing essentially new, so there should be no need for a popular vote. ...

Yet this constitution is not just another intergovernmental treaty. Under it, the union will cease to be a collection of member states that have chosen to share sovereignty over agreed aspects of their affairs, and instead become a legal entity in its own right.

No one can plausibly call this a tidying-up exercise. ...

-- The Daily Telegraph, London

The Middle East road map to peace

The American-sponsored peace road map is now in greater jeopardy than ever before. Whether Washington and Tel Aviv like it or not, it is the Palestinians who decide on who becomes their prime minister and, consequently, their interlocutor in negotiations to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. ... There is no reason a new Palestinian prime minister can live up to Washington's expectations. In fact, he would be reluctant to act according to American or Israeli wishes, so as not to be seen as a puppet of either. The road map cannot hinge on the American perception of the Palestinian prime minister or sidelining Arafat, who is after all the leader of the Palestinian struggle. Washington must exert pressure on Tel Aviv to make sacrifices for peace by stopping their attacks on the Palestinians and ending their occupation of Palestinian lands. Otherwise, the road map will go nowhere.

-- New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia