The International Anthrax Scare

Asia | Europe and Russia | Middle East and Africa | The Americas

The World Responds Column Archive

ASIA

Afghanistan


The Leaders :
Afghanistan's political future is getting heavy treatment in most Afghan papers and media outlets. Papers cite reports of defections within the Taliban, raising hopes in the U.S. and Pakistan for possible future inclusion of moderate Taliban officials in a broad based Afghan government. Contradictory reports emerge on whether the Taliban's foreign minister has been attempting a negotiation that would involve the handover of bin Laden for an international trial.

The United States and the United Nations are discussing a way to put Kabul under temporary control of UN peacekeeping forces or other international or foreign authorities. Northern Alliance officials said October 15th that they will hold off on a Kabul take-over until firmer post-Taliban political plans are made. Meanwhile, foreign correspondents report back on conversations with Al Queda leaders who say Osama bin Laden has successfully defined the terms of war and will pay back the U.S. and Britain for destroying what he says are the homes of civilians.

The Press:
Radio Afghanistan posted on its website a paper ("Osamagate") criticizing the U.S. government's position against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden as hypocritically and intentionally distorting the U.S.'s longstanding support of international terrorist campaigns and its convenient role switch from bin Laden technical supporter and financier to bin Laden foe. Meanwhile the Omaid Weekly, an Afghan paper published in Virginia and read widely by Afghan expats in the U.S., theorizes that Pakistan is covertly tied with bin Laden and the Taliban, a strategic relationship which might be corrupting and misleading the U.S. counter-offensive that relies on Pakistani intelligence and diplomacy.

The People:
Reports of looting and disorderly conduct, after less than two weeks of foreign attacks on Afghanistan might signal the Taliban's authority and control over Afghani society has diminished. Humanitarian aid and relief workers are asking for a pause in strikes so that food and other aid can be safely delivered to citizens. This plea from the aid agencies comes in the wake of a recent U.S. fumbled air strike during a raid on Kabul in which bombers mistakenly destroyed a Red Cross warehouse.

Pakistan


The Leaders:
"It could be over in one day if you take out Mullah Omar and his leadership. Once you've done that, the campaign is over," Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf said during exclusive interviews with USA Today and CBS radio early this week. Musharraf met with Secretary of State Colin Powell this week to discuss rising regional tensions. Musharraf assured those worried that violence in Afghanistan might undermine Pakistan's political and economic security that talks with the U.S. and Britain have addressed Pakistan's national interests. "There was no give and take but we do expect that Pakistan's economic difficulties will be taken into account by the West," he told reporters. Under pressure to take a stand on Afghanistan's political future, Musharraf reportedly warned international leaders last week that they must keep anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces in check, but presented a stronger message to his own cabinet members, telling them, "We will not accept Northern Alliance and I have told every body that even this Northern Alliance should not be allowed to enter Kabul." Musharraf did not rule out, however, his conditional support for a return-to-power of Afghanistan's pre-Taliban King, Zahir Shah.

The Press:
Business Recorder, the Pakistani equivalent of The Wall Street Journal, focuses attention on the "propaganda war" between bin Laden and the United States, arguing that the U.S. decision to limit coverage of bin Laden's statements might be as undemocratic as the news-censoring policies of the Taliban. Dr. Faisal Bari forecasts disaster for Pakistan in the form of refugee overload and a destabilized neighbor long after the international community needs Pakistan's resources. Late last week, after President Bush denied telling President Musharraf that military attacks on Afghanistan would be short and politically targeted (Musharraf had publicly referred to such a conversation) the Pakistani newspaper, Daily Nation, editorialized that Musharraf's credibility may be compromised and that Bush and other international leaders may not follow through on other promises made to Pakistan. In the most recent edition of The Friday Times, an independent weekly political review known to be non-partisan, Khaled Ahmed praised General Musharraf's careful leadership.

The People:
Tensions continued to rise this week when police arrested over 500 protestors opposing Pakistan's cooperation with U.S. counter-terrorism attacks on Afghanistan. Angry clashes during ongoing demonstrations and strikes nationwide have already resulted in a few deaths and many injuries, according to the first reports. Papers are reporting expectations that the U.S. and UK will forbid religious and political leaders in Pakistan who oppose attacks on Afghanistan from entering their countries.

India


The Leaders:
President of the Congress Party, Sonia Ghandi, reportedly told Secretary of State Colin Powell during his peace-making visit to the region that cross border terrorism between Pakistan and India is a more pressing concern than conflict in Kashmir. Indian officials denied Pakistan's claim that India is strengthening its military presence in tense border areas, calling the assertion a "complete fabrication."

The Press:
The Times of India editorialized that Colin Powell's visit seemed more token than substance. Although experts "hung on to every White House utterance that remotely sounded like a pat for India and a put down for Pakistan," Powell seemed to lean with Pakistan on most issues. In the Hindustan Times, Indrajit Hazra argues that terrorism has been couched in religious and moral terms by figures like bin Laden, instead of with the political, fundamentalist, and revolutionary extremism underlying most violent terrorist campaigns: "One would have thought that the most obvious jump from Al-Qaeda, jehadis, Bin Laden and Islamic terrorism would be to words like IRA, Timothy McVeigh and the Red Brigades. But thanks to a decades-long programme in which 'crusaders' from Ayatollah Khomeini to Osama bin Laden have tried to convince both Muslims and non-Muslims alike that their 'cause' is a religious one, perception of Islamic terrorism has leaned away from terrorism per se and moved towards Islam."

The People:
Shots were fired by both Indian and Pakistani troops along the Jammu border, resulting in the destruction of at least twenty-four Pakistani military posts and the death of more than thirty Pakistani soldiers, according to reports from Indian officials.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Israel


The Leaders:
"The responsibility belongs entirely to Arafat," said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly said regarding the assassination of Israeli Foreign Minister Rechavam Ze'evi, and ". . .If Arafat doesn't take the matters in hand, everything will go up in flames."

The Press:
BBC analyst Martin Asser describes the new culture of Israeli-Palestinian violence, noting that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appears to believe this first assassination of a high-level Israeli politician since Rabin's murder in 1995 is like the September 11th attack in the U.S.: nothing will ever be the same. Jerusalem's Hebrew University professor Paul Frosh writes that the new focus on terrorism finally takes seriously the war Israelis have faced for years, attention that perhaps ironically holds promise for peace-making efforts in the Middle East.

The People:
Israeli settlers reportedly stab a twenty four-year-old Palestinian man as the region prepares for rising tempers after recent political assassinations.

The Occupied Territories


The Leaders:
The Palestinian Authority condemned the assassination of right-wing Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavan Zeevi as well as Israel's political assassinations of Palestinians during the past year. Palestinian officials made clear that Palestinians should not participate in more terror attacks against the U.S. in the name of political causes or views.

The Press:
Palestinian political analyst and editor of Palestine Report, Ghassan Khatib, argues that the Palestinian movement must reiterate its legitimate roots in international law and human rights because "when Osama bin Laden put the Palestinian cause at the core of the speech he delivered to the world…he was deliberately attempting to draw legitimacy from the Muslim and Arab public by linking his cause to that of Palestinians and exploiting their frustration. The liberal Indymedia Israel website posts an argument from Jeff Halpern, coordinator of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) that, because of the September 11 attacks, "the United States perceives a direct and immediate interest in resolving the conflict-or at least minimizing its potential for obstructing the recruitment of Arab and Muslim states into the anti-terrorist 'coalition'."

The People:
Joy and fear dominated Palestinian reactions to the assassination of Israeli Foreign Minister Ze'evi, according to Israel's business daily: Palestinians are pleased at the news of the killing, but worried about possible Israeli retaliation. And that fear might not be unfounded, as Arab newspapers begin to report on increased violence against Palestinians by the Israeli military, despite claims by Israeli officials that control in the border areas would be eased. Reports are starting to come in of retributive attacks against Arab Israelis.

EUROPE

United Kingdom


The Leaders:
Human rights laws are going to be suspended in Britain to enable the internment of suspected foreign terrorists in Britain, according to The Guardian. A number of new measures, including wider powers for police and increased maximum penalties for incitement to religious and racial hatred will be adopted to be used in cases where the suspects can not be deported -- either because Britain does not have an extradition agreement with their country or where they would face torture or death if they were returned. Human rights experts said last night that the government was within its rights to issue a declaration that it was not going to apply part of the human rights convention, but it could face a legal challenge in the European court of human rights.

In a September 16 speech, Prime Minister Tony Blair urged the British government not to let the war in Afghanistan deflect it from pursuing improved public services at home. According to The Guardian, Blair said "None of this should cause us to lose our focus on the more normal areas of public policy that will, in the end, determine our strengths and success as a nation as much as any international crisis." The prime minister also hinted that if it came to a choice, the government would rather raise taxes than cut spending growth.

The Press:
Nearly every paper focused on the rash of anthrax scares around the world, intensified locally by incidents prompted by suspect mail across the country. A suspicious package was removed from the London Stock Exchange, and 12 people from the building were taken to the hospital this week. Furthermore, police were also investigating a package sent to a building where Nick Raynsford, a government minister, was meeting local government leaders. Authorities scrambled to allay panic and urged people to "remain calm and go about their normal lives."
In an October 9 editorial, The Financial Times praised the European Union's agreement to hold a constitutional convention next year, "bringing together European and national parliamentarians and government representatives in the full public gaze -- and involving candidate member states." The European Union has debated its future behind closed doors for too long, the editorial maintained, and "that is no longer an acceptable way to behave."

The People:
High-street bank NatWest reported it had received a record number of inquiries about its will writing service since the attacks in New York and Washington, according to The Guardian.

Germany


The Leaders:

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder continues to pledge unreserved solidarity with the U.S. in the fight against international terrorism. He reinforced his words with an October 7 speech to German parliament supporting the American and British strikes on targets in Afghanistan, and reminding the German public of its nation's, "special level of international responsibility," since it owes its successful transition after World War II and its reunification to American and European assistance. Schröder was also the first foreign leader to visit Washington following the onset of military strikes. He met with both President George W. Bush in Washington, D.C., and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at New York's "Ground Zero," where he extended an invitation to 1,000 young people who are relatives of attack victims to visit Germany as part of a New York-Berlin Bridge. "Germany will -- just as will France -- make its contribution to further effort as soon as it receives a concrete request and to the extent it is objectively able to do so with respect to our capabilities," Schröder said. Thus far, about 620 German soldiers are part of the approximately 3,000 soldiers from 11 nations in NATO's first multi-national airborne unit, established in 1988.

Yet despite Chancellor Schröder's repeated assurances of Berlin's solidarity with the U.S. against terrorism, dissention in the ranks emerged this week when Green party co-leader Claudia Roth demanded an immediate "pause" in the bombing of Afghanistan. Her remarks drew criticism, not only from Schröder, but from Liberal party leader Guido Westerwelle, and key Social Democrats, who told the Greens that the coalition government will collapse unless they stand by the U.S. approach. The Frankfurter Rundschau also reports that Germany's ultra-right groups, including the National Democratic Party (NPD), are trying to capitalize on the war, marching in the streets of Berlin, and chanting anti-imperialist slogans. While one right-wing extremist party, the Republikaner, is distancing itself from this trend, the xenophobic NPD, for instance, has just discovered its "solidarity with the Afghan people" and a newfound solidarity with Muslims living in Germany.

The Press:

Bioterrorism takes precedence in all German headlines this week, as fear spreads around the world along with suspect mail. Editorialists have their hands full with the Green Party's public criticism of Schroder's support for the U.S. military response, many of them worrying that their dissent will erode the nascent antiterrorist measures. The Frankfurter Allgemeine reported this week that Mohammed Atta, one of the the suspected terrorists in the September 11 attacks on the United States, was a fellow at the Carl-Duisberg Development Forum in 1995. The three-month fellowship was awarded to students and young professionals aiming to create interdisciplinary approaches to development studies; Mr. Atta worked on a project titled "An investigation of city and traffic engineering to preserve the historical section of Cairo." Apparently, he participated in seminars in many German cities, including Berlin, while he was a student at a Hamburg university.

The People:
A number of recent surveys show that the German public's belief in a secure and safe future has dropped significantly following the September 11 attacks on the United States. Many of those polled said their greatest fear was the outbreak of a new world war.

Against a solid backdrop of German expressions of support for America, Wolfgang Joop, a leading German fashion designer said the destruction of the Twin Towers could be an aesthetic blessing in disguise. "I don't regret that the twin towers are no longer standing because they symbolized capitalist arrogance," Joop told the Austrian magazine Profil. According to the British newspaper, The Guardian, Joop "lives in a luxurious mansion on a lakeside in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, and another in New York, and is known for his flashy dress sense and party lifestyle."

France


The Leaders:
Aiming to boost consumer confidence and to shore up the economy, Finance Minister Laurent Fabius announced measures to bolster the French economy in the wake of the U.S. terrorist attacks.

The French government announced plans to set up a $378 million emergency fund for struggling airlines. According to
French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot
, the money would come equally from the government and passengers who will see airport taxes increased by $2 a ticket.

According to the Associated Press, French authorities have launched an inquiry into Zacarias Moussaoui, a French-Moroccan now in U.S. custody in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Moussaoui, 33, of Moroccan origin, was born in southwest France, and had been on a French counterintelligence agency watch-list since 1999. Although he was in jail for immigration violations when the attacks took place, he had earlier been detained in Minnesota in August after he aroused suspicions when he asked to learn how to fly planes, but not to take off or land.

The Press:
Both Le Monde and Liberation ran editorials this week criticizing the U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan. They question the aerial campaign, which they say is inappropriate against an individual, and ineffective against the Taliban, and wonder if President Bush is ready to risk ground strikes.
Aziz Zemouri, the French journalist arrested last Thursday for trying to enter Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was freed by the Pakistani authorities on Tuesday, October 13 2001. Zemouri, who works for France's Le Figaro newspaper, holds both French and Algerian nationality, and was detained in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

Meanwhile, Michel Peyrard, who works for Paris Match magazine, and who was arrested earlier by the Taliban after illegally entering Afghanistan dressed as a woman, is still in custody. Although he was reported to be in good health, the Taliban has vowed to show no leniency, charging him with spying, an offense which carries a death penalty.

The People:
As with the rest of the world, suspect envelopes of white powder sparked Anthrax scares throughout France. Though none have tested positive thus far, further tests are underway for employees of three public buildings in Paris and the headquarters just outside the French capital of the French Space Agency and Arianespace.

THE AMERICAS

The Caribbean


The Leaders: Russia's pullout from key spy bases in Cuba, marking the end of Russia's Cold War era presence in the region, made international news on Thursday. Russian officials say the decision was based on a cost analysis, but, as Britain's The Guardian reports, others view the move "as a goodwill signal to Washington and President George Bush" in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

The Press:
Has drug activity in the Caribbean gone up lately because "traffickers see an opportunity with U.S. law enforcement focused on terrorism?" asks Drug Enforcement Administrator Asa Hutchinson in the Chicago Sun-Times. The Mexican paper, La Jornada, published an editorial (Spanish language) against panicked spending of national resources on combating bio-chemical terrorism in Mexico when many other "real" problems threatening public heath deserve attention.
The U.S. is responding with shortsighted and simplistic eye-for-eye revenge attacks in Afghanistan, against a terror problem that demands complex, big-picture analysis and international cooperation, argues a contributor in Cuba's Juventud Rebelde (Spanish language).

The People:
Americans scared about a spread of the Anthrax virus are turning to neighboring Mexico for the antibiotic Cipro, where the drug is less expensive, and available without a doctor's prescription.

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