Saturday, July 21, 2007

Around the world: France, Spain, Pakistan, and the Ivory Coast

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's another installment of our Around the World series. We have the highlights, but make sure to click on the links to read the articles in full.

1) France: "France and Britain will push for a U.N. resolution to dispatch African Union and United Nations peacekeepers to Darfur, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says." He and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met in France, the first (formal) meeting between the two new leaders.

I applaud their efforts, assuming that they should be taken seriously, but Darfur needs more than peacekeeping (there is no peace to keep) and the threat of sanctions against Khartoum. Besides, what good will a U.N. resolution do if not backed up by force? What Darfur needs is NATO, preferably with solid U.S. backing.

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2) Spain: "A judge ordered copies of a satirical magazine confiscated Friday for publishing a front-cover cartoon of Spain's Crown Prince Felipe in an intimate bedroom scene with his wife, Princess Letizia, court officials said." The judge apparently thinks the cartoon may constitute "libel against the monarchy," which is punishable by up to two years in prison. The magazine is El Jueves. The cartoon is graphic -- pornographic satire, I suppose. You can see it for yourselves at the magazine's website, or here (a Basque news site -- hardly, one imagines, friendly to Madrid).

According to the Basque site, the cartoon is "about a newly approved measure brought in by President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to boost birth rate in Spain by offering financial assistance worth euro2,500 (US$3,450) to Spanish families for each new child born or adopted." And, yes, the "intimate bedroom scene" (such a quaint way to put it by the AP, in a story picked up around the world) is actually Felipe giving it to Letizia from behind and saying: "Do you realize, if you get pregnant this will be the closest to real work I've ever done?"

That's funny, is it not? I'll defend the freedom of the press, but I'll also defend a good joke. The authorities should back off.

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3) Pakistan: "More than 50 people were killed in suicide attacks across Pakistan on Thursday as the violence engulfing this country gave no sign of abating... The fatalities pushed past 150 the number of people who have died violently in the last week, since Islamic militants vowed revenge for a government raid on a radical mosque."

Not good. Keep watching this ongoing story. President Pervez Musharraf is hardly the ideal leader, not even close, but if his quasi-legitimate regime falls all bets are off.

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4) Ivory Coast: "The United Nations is investigating allegations of widespread sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers serving in Ivory Coast." Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan admitted last year that "[t]here have been crimes such as rape, paedophilia and human trafficking" committed by U.N. peacekeepers on various missions around the world". This seemingly would be more of the same.

The U.N. already suffers from a massive credibility problem around the world. It hardly needs its troops going around abusing those it is tasked with protecting. More to the point, those who are allegedly being protected hardly need the U.N., or even just some rogue peacekeepers, doing this to them. Africa in particular needs a robust U.N. presence throughout the continent. This won't help matters at all.

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