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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- The International Herald Tribune says this week's summit meeting in Hanoi of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group may be "the last chance for the 21 member organization to rescue itself from irrelevance."

"The omens are not good, however. The meeting appears set on focusing on a strategic issue - North Korea's nuclear program - that is beyond APEC's purpose and competence. For sure, there will be a star-studded cast in Hanoi, headed by Bush, Presidents Hu Jintao of China and Vladimir Putin of Russian, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and the leaders of South Korea, Australia, Indonesia and Mexico. North Korea provides an easy way out for drafters of resolutions looking for common ground. All five participants in the talks with Pyongyang are APEC members, but as they are in constant dialogue on handling the North it is unlikely that the Hanoi meeting can help. The North Korean issue has little to do with APEC's intended role of reducing trade barriers and facilitating economic and business cooperation."

Vietnam News has called on the APEC delegates to help solve energy issues, promote trade facilitation, and and enhance technological innovation, among others.

"A seminar on trade facilitation in Canada in May identified difficulties and complexities of regulations, taxation systems and financial accession and rigid labour laws and said that APEC leaders needed to carry out reforms to facilitate trade activities, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)."

Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times says that at most high-level political events one can expect nothing but jargon-laden meetings with men and women in dark suits--but not at the APEC.

The APEC is "the most fashion-forward of the regional inter-governmental trade groups (though that may not be much of a contest). Here the jargon-laden meetings are followed by a closing-day tradition in which all the leaders are expected to wear shirts in the style of the host country. In years past, China provided a satin jacket festooned with flowers, and Thailand offered shirts sewed with pure silver thread, valued at $2,200 each."

UN report on Somalia

The UK's Times comments on a recent UN report on Somalia which accuses Iran, Syria, Egypt and Libya of smuggling huge quantities of arms to the Islamic militants who run most of the country.

"The 86-page report is a reaffirmation of warnings that the Islamists who have seized power in the lawless country are not a force for stability, as many assert, but are likely to use their position to destabilise their neighbours, fan anti-Western sentiment and offer al-Qaeda and other extremists a safe haven. In short, the report suggests, Somalia is becoming another Afghanistan, a failed state that is falling under the control of extremists... Somalia is the classic failed state, without a government for 15 years. It is violent, its economy has collapsed and its people have been terrorised by rival warlords. As in Afghanistan, there was a hope that the Islamists could offer stability. Drastic punishments and religious intimidation have brought peace of a kind. But, like the Taleban, it is the stillness of dictatorship, which is seeking to assert brutal control over the deviant and the merely different. As the UN makes clear, they wish to impose the stability of the noose. And those backing them are only hastening this brutal end."

US Middle East talks

Lebanon's Daily Star says the US must continue talks with Iran without fearing it would be seen as a failure to block the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"The crushing defeat suffered by President George W. Bush's Republican Party in last week's congressional elections has shattered the edifice of unilateralism that the White House had erected around its misguided Middle East policy. This and the firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have combined to reduce the obstacles to the adoption of a more pragmatic approach. Talking to Iran does not - and must not - entail a surrender of the international community's right to block the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That would set a dangerous precedent for this and other parts of the world. The Islamic Republic denies trying to build a bomb; whatever the case, direct negotiations with the United States cannot help but provide each side with a better understanding of the other's strategic concerns. They might even realize how often their interests coincide."

The New York Times says, on a related note, that talking to Syria is just as important for the US to help stabilize tensions in the Middle East.

"Iran is thumbing its nose at international diplomacy so it can continue to learn how to enrich bomb grade uranium, and Syria is not. That is a distinction Washington needs to recognize and exploit. A Syria detached from Iran and engaged by the United States could conceivably be enlisted in reviving the Arab-Israeli peace effort and containing the spreading chaos in Iraq. Syria's national interests in both areas at least partially intersect with those of the United States and Israel."

US Airways - Delta merger

With US Airways proposing a $8 billion deal to take over Delta Airlines, the UK's Guardian suggests that profitable airlines are as unreal as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

"Yes, the airline business is currently going through one of its sporadic spasms of profitability. But the history of the industry is that it loses money in the medium and long term. And often in the short term as well. In fact, it's doubtful that the industry overall has ever made money: US airlines have been responsible for destroying more capital than the Luftwaffe ever did."


President Hu Jintao of China waves to crowds in Hanoi at the APEC summit meeting.

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