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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- The Washington Post says Americans flatter themselves that they are the root of all planetary evil. In the case of Iraq however, an editorial in the paper suggests the root problem lies with the Iraqis themselves, and their political culture.

"The problem is not, as we endlessly argue about, the number of American troops. Or of Iraqi troops. The problem is the allegiance of the Iraqi troops. Some serve the abstraction called Iraq. But many swear fealty to political parties, religious sects or militia leaders. Are the Arabs intrinsically incapable of democracy, as the 'realists' imply? True, there are political, historical, even religious reasons why Arabs are less prepared for democracy than, say, East Asians and Latin Americans who successfully democratized over the last several decades. But the problem here is Iraq's particular political culture, raped and ruined by 30 years of Saddam's totalitarianism."

The Jerusalem Post says that word in Israel that the country will pay the price for the Democratic victory in the U.S. Congressional elections by losing American support in the Middle East, are "greatly exaggerated" and "unfounded."

"The U.S., according to responsible experts in Washington, cannot flee from Iraq, as a few liberal Democrats are vociferously demanding. It must maintain a number of bases, for example in Kuwait, on the Jordanian-Iraqi border, etc, which will in fact be saying to Iran and Ahmadinejad: You will not invade Iraq and you will not take control of Syria and Lebanon in order to realize your dream of a dangerous Shi'ite front stretching from Teheran to Beirut. The practical indication of Bush's determination in view of the Shi'ite Iranian danger is his call to isolate Iran economically and internationally."

Bush - Putin

After U.S. President George W. Bush stopped over in Moscow on his way to the APEC summit in Hanoi, International Herald Tribune says U.S.-Russian relations have reached their "lowest point since the end of the Cold War."

"The United States sees Russia as bullying its much weaker neighbors. Moscow sees America as encroaching in its region, promoting regime change and encircling Russia. Energy, once a big hope for partnership, is now used by Russia as a coercive tool. Central Asia, once a fulcrum of cooperation, is the setting for dangerous competition over political influence and natural resources. The paramount shared goal of preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is overshadowed by diverging approaches toward the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. Perhaps most damaging of all, Russophobia in the United States and anti-Americanism in Russia are rampant. If unchecked, these attitudes could become self-fulfilling prophecies."

Meanwhile The Hindu in India reports on the rise of mega-companies in Russia as part of a Kremlin effort to extend its reach into global markets.

"The Kremlin has a powerful instrument to help advance Russian corporate interests abroad -- the country's vast energy resources. Mr. Putin made it clear Western companies would not get access to Russian oil and gas unless Russian industry -- both commodity and manufacturing -- was allowed to expand into Europe... Russia's hard-nosed strategy is paying off. Earlier this year, Gazprom won a 50 percent minus one share in Germany's BASF gas distribution network in exchange for a stake in the vast Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field in Siberia."

O.J., again

O.J. Simpson is back in the news with a new book, detailing how he might have killed his wife: if he had done it. The UK's Guardian is not impressed.

"Well here we go again, and not in a good way. O.J. is cashing in on his infamy with a book about how he would have done it, if he had, which he may have, but he's not telling... Is there any news executive anywhere who can defend O.J.'s self-serving, cash-seeking re-emergence as newsworthy? I'd be amazed. But will any of the cable networks in the United States avoid the topic? To ask the question is to answer it. There are a lot of forces lining up to cripple the news business these days, from Wall Street to the White House. But there's an enemy within as well."

The Chicago Tribune is even more scathing about the book.

"What's O.J. going to say? That he never would have slashed their throats but might have stuffed them in a sack and drowned them in the ocean? That he would have poisoned them? Maybe he'll claim he was Col. Mustard in the drawing room with the candlestick? Giving a man, acquitted of double murder but found responsible for the crimes in civil court, a broadcast forum to profit from playing 'what if' is perfectly in keeping with Chayefsky's vision of entertainment values trumping those of news -- and morality."

The quality of mercy

With Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf commuting the death sentence of Mirza Tahir Hussain--a British national due to be hung in Pakistan next month--The Times in the UK has lauded Musharraf's decision as "wise and brave."

"It is merciful and, given the uncertainties surrounding the case, just. Hussain, convicted of murdering a taxi driver in 1988, has spent 18 years -- half his life -- in jail and has suffered the mental torture of having an execution date set and postponed four times... General Musharraf's courage in commuting the sentence should not be underestimated. Within Pakistan, his decision is highly controversial. First, it is not clear that the Islamic courts accept the right of a secular head of government to overrule their verdict.

"Secondly, the key condition stipulated by Sharia for clemency has not been fulfilled, namely the acceptance by the family of the victim of compensation. The murdered man's family has refused the considerable sum offered, arguing that acceptance would be dishonorable. Politics may lurk in the background: the family comes from the turbulent North West Frontier Province, where Islamist extremists are strongly opposed to General Musharraf's crackdown on al Qaeda supporters... The President knows the damage these outrageously misogynistic laws, and cases such as that of Hussain's, have done to Pakistan's image abroad. Muslim organizations in the West have joined in the appeal over Hussain (who may now be soon released). General Musharaf's wisdom in attempting to project and enforce moderation makes him a valuable ally."

Meanwhile Pakistan's Dawn reports that the family members of the taxi driver killed 18 years ago have expressed outrage at Musharraf's decision and will challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

"'It is an unfair and unlawful decision,' Abdul Ghani, father of the taxi-driver, Jamshed Khan, told Dawn. 'Not only all the courts in the country had upheld the death sentence but even the president had turned down the mercy petition of the accused earlier this year.' Mr Ghani said in the present situation all he could do was to ... seek justice from the apex court. Advocate Malik Rab Nawaz told Dawn that the taxi-driver's relative Sobhat Khan had contacted him regarding the appeal and added that they would contend in the appeal that the president did not have powers to commute the death sentence and it was the prerogative only of the heirs of the deceased to pardon the killer or reach a compromise."

Russia-U.S. relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War, says the IHT.



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