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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- The New York Times says while it may be too early to know who ordered this week's assassination of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, there are many reasons to suspect Syria.

"Mr. Gemayel opposed Syria's unrelenting campaign to dominate Lebanon's fragile democracy. If the cabinet now loses even one more minister, through intimidation or worse, Lebanon's pro-Western government will collapse -- a collapse that Hezbollah, Syria's ally and henchman, has been publicly seeking... Damascus must also be told that it will pay a high price -- in scorn, isolation and sanctions -- if it is found to have ordered Mr. Gemayel's death, or the deaths or maiming of a half-dozen other anti-Syrian politicians and journalists. Hezbollah must be told that it will be shunned if it tries to grab power through further violence or intimidation."

Agence Global says Gemayel's assassination will quickly accelerate and exacerbate existing tensions that reflect a much wider regional and global battle that has been under way for the past year.

"Many observers find it hard to see how Syria would benefit from committing such a crude crime, given the intense scrutiny of the Syrian government by the Security Council-mandated investigation into political assassinations in Lebanon. But Syria's opponents say the regime is trying to intimidate Lebanon's political class so that Damascus can revert to its previous status as overlord of Lebanon. The real issue at hand, however, is not culpability but the ideological battle for control of Lebanon's soul and political system -- pitting Arabism and Islamism against a liberal, Western-oriented cosmopolitanism. That battle will be determined in years to come by events in Syria, Iran and Washington, more than in Beirut."

Beirut's Daily Star says the urgent priority at this juncture is to "put out the flames" before the state itself is engulfed in rivalry and conflict -- an outcome that would be to the detriment of all.

"Perhaps it is time for the Lebanese to ask for help. No state in the international community is better placed to play a supportive role in Lebanon than the one which is perhaps least interested in intervening: Turkey. Compared with other regional and international players, Ankara has few strategic or national reasons for wanting to be involved in Lebanon, but this makes it an even more attractive candidate to play an arbitrating role... Turkey has good relations with all of the countries who seem intent on making Lebanon a battlefield in a deadly proxy war."

The Jerusalem Post says the assassination is a "reminder... of whom the West is dealing with."

"This was a classic Mafia-style hit to accompany Syria's standard criminal tactics: spread murder and mayhem in the hopes of extorting support for dictatorial rule... The U.S., France and other countries should start sounding the alarm about Syrian smuggling and request to deploy UNIFIL forces along that border to stop it. Even if the smuggling cannot be completely stopped, UN monitors could report, triggering sanctions on Damascus."

The poisoned spy

The International Herald Tribune says despite the lack of evidence about who poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, it was "hardly surprising that suspicion would fall immediately on the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin."

"Litvinenko was a defector with many enemies in Russia, official and otherwise, and with Putin's track record on matters of justice and human rights, many in the West are prepared to believe the worst about him these days... the Russian government's response was disappointing for its cold-blooded lack of humanity. How much better it would have been had Putin's people said something like, 'How awful! Let us help find out who did this outrageous thing!' That's also what Putin might have said when Anna Politkovskaya, the courageous investigative reporter, was gunned down, or when all the other politicians, businessmen and reporters, whose only crime was trying to reform Russia, were killed."

Russia Profile says while fewer high-profile contract killings have occurred in Russia recently, local officials and businessmen continue to be killed -- but their deaths often go unnoticed.

"A real reduction in the number of contract killings can only be achieved by giving businesses the opportunity to work openly, transparently, with no need to make deals with criminal organizations. Reducing taxes and developing easier ways to collect them can achieve this. Creating real, workable laws, however, can only be done by stamping out corrupt officials who find new ways to extract money from businesses and introduce increasingly harsh rules for trading and banking."

Hu Jintao in South Asia

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India this week to discuss economic and diplomatic ties, and is now in Pakistan. India's Hindu says while Jintao is expected to sign agreements with Pakistan for increased cooperation in economic, social, and cultural spheres, Pakistan will want to know whether China will sign a civilian nuclear energy cooperation pact with it.

"After the United States and India concluded their nuclear cooperation deal, it has been Pakistan's contention that, in the interests of parity and regional stability, Washington must sign a similar deal with it. But the Bush administration has made it clear several times, even as recently as last week, that there was no question of replicating the India nuclear pact with Pakistan as it was a unique deal with a unique country. Pakistan's response has been to look to China for support."

Pakistan's Dawn says while the relationship between the two countries is "underpinned by mutual trust and confidence," Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf will need to raise the nuclear question during talks with Jintao.

"Apparently, there is a definite perception among the policymakers in Beijing that a stable, powerful and economically viable Pakistan will be an important foreign policy asset to China. No other major power has a similar interest in the viability of Pakistan. Regrettably, however, the warming up of India's relations with the United States and, in particular, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, portends serious security problems for all the countries in the region. Although the Chinese seem to have taken a cautiously optimistic view of this development it would be desirable if President Pervez Musharraf conveys Pakistan's serious concern to President Hu Jintao on this issue."

The UK's Times says the "modesty of agreements" reached this week between India and China is indicative of how difficult it is to put relations between the two Asian rivals on a smoother track.

"It did not help that, on the eve of Mr Hu's arrival, the Chinese Ambassador to India publicly restated China's claim to 'the whole of Arunachal Pradesh', a 33,000-square-mile swath of territory along the disputed frontier where China's claim stems, provokingly, from its annexation of Tibet. That unpromising start to a trust-building endeavor made it politically impossible for Mr Singh to use this visit to speed up the resolution of the broader border dispute, a quarrel that both India and China need to consign to history."

Farmer suicides

The Times of India discusses the plight of farmers in India, who comprise more than a quarter of the suicides in rural areas of western India. Many towns have recorded on average over two suicides a day.

"Distress caused by a single death, for the family and the neighborhood, is not reduced when it is part of a larger figure of 200 or 500 suicides in a district. A responsible society and government should pay attention to individual cases and seek constructive interventions, treating even a single suicide as one too many. Apart from individual focus, the nature of economic policy intervention needs to change. Making roads, minor irrigation projects and sundry other civil works is all very well. Writing off bank loans will improve the bankers' books, but will it also reduce current levels of misery?"


With Americans ready to give thanks and tuck into their Turkey specials tonight, The Washington Post has termed Thanksgiving the "consummate American holiday."

"Thanksgiving and its religious roots are acceptable precisely because the religious roots have proved benign, or at least so broadly inclusive that no single religious denomination can claim the day solely as its own. In its way, then, Thanksgiving is the ultimate American holiday: religious without being sectarian, with room for the nonreligious to simply pause and celebrate our common humanity."

The New York Times looks at how the holiday is not just about sharing gifts.

"This is the day when all our impulses collide. We work hectically to fit the holiday in -- hectic flying, hectic driving, hectic shopping and cooking -- and yet we hope somehow that we will be sitting down, come dinner, to a full-fledged, old-fashioned Norman Rockwell 'Freedom From Want' feast, with a roasted turkey that fulfills our emotional needs and embodies the permanence of our familial and communal bonds reaching right back to the 17th century. It may be too much to ask of one day and one bird and one set of relatives. Just when it feels as though we might be overlooking the meaning of this holiday -- the peculiar value of Thanksgiving -- it becomes clear that we have drawn together once again not to exchange the gifts our entire culture seems to be driving us to shop for but to share, simply, each other."

Rising suicide rates among Indian farmers are causing concern.

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