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Monday, 04 December 2006 01:33

Gloria R. Lalumia's World Media Watch for December 4, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH

Summaries are excerpted from the source articles; the featured article follows the summary section.  A recommended "site of the day" will sometimes follow the summaries.

1//The Jordan Times, Jordan
JITTERS IN BAHRAIN AFTER ISLAMIST POLL TRIUMPH

The domination of Bahrain's parliament by Sunni and Shiite Islamists risks fuelling sectarian tensions between the two and restricting freedoms in the relatively liberal Gulf state, analysts said Sunday.  But a senior Bahraini official said that stunning electoral gains made by the Islamic National Accord Association (INAA), standard-bearer of the majority Shiite community in the Sunni-ruled country, could help resolve contentious issues within parliament.  "The makeup of the new parliament might trigger sectarian crises that would spill over onto the streets. I fear we will be torn between Fallujah and Najaf," columnist Sawsan Al Shaer told AFP.  Fallujah is a bastion of Sunni insurgents in Iraq while Najaf is the base of the country's Shiite clergy.  Saturday's second round of parliamentary elections gave Sunni Islamists new gains, as the opposition INAA boosted spectacular wins made in the first round on November 25.  Liberals were trounced, leaving three-quarters of parliament's 40 seats under the control of Shiite or Sunni Islamists, with the rest largely made up of independents close to either the government or Sunni Islamists. ... Fuad Shehab, a professor of modern history at Bahrain University, said the Bahrainis should "learn the lessons of Iraq and Lebanon" and avoid turning parliament into "an arena for sectarian discourse."

(AN EXPANDED EXCERPT OF THIS FEATURED ARTICLE FOLLOWS THE SUMMARIES)

2//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong
AMERICANS LOWER SIGHTS ON PYONGYANG

Those four tendentious initials, "CVID" appear to have been dropped entirely from the vocabulary of US officials talking about talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons.  They've fallen so precipitously from discussions that almost no one outside the negotiating process remembers what they mean - "complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of the whole nuclear program. The Americans, judging from talks about talks this week in Beijing between US envoy Christopher Hill and his opposite number from North Korea, Kim Gye-gwan, apparently have forgotten all about their once commonplace demand for North Korea not only to give up all its nukes but also to open wide to inspectors tramping around the country to make sure Pyongyang was living up to his promises. The reason, as was clear from Hill's meetings with Kim, is that Washington knows very well that Pyongyang is not about to abandon its program entirely. By now, the most the Americans seem to expect from six-party talks, if they ever resume, is that North Korea will submit to a "freeze" on development and production of nuclear weapons at its much publicized facility at Yongbyon. Equally significant, the talks about talks had Hill and Kim yakking away for two entire days, all under the watchful eye of the Chinese envoy, Wu Dawei, playing the role of host, moderator and possibly arbitrator. The United States, it seemed, was ready to drop the pretense of avoiding direct negotiations with North Korea as long as they could place the give-and-take under the increasingly vague umbrella of the six-party process.

3//The Daily Times, Pakistan
SINGH SAYS CONTROVERSIAL INDIAN MILITARY LAW TO BE CHANGED

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned on Saturday that he would curtail draconian powers accorded to India's million-plus military to stamp out militancy in insurgency-hit northeastern states.  Singh's announcement in the Manipur state capital Imphal led to sporadic celebrations in the remote province where rights groups have been spearheading protests against the decades-old Armed Forces Special Powers Act. ... "It would be made more humane, giving due regard to the protection of basic human and civil rights," the prime minister told an audience amidst applause.  The legislation gives the military the powers to "shoot or arrest without warrant" in four of the seven northeastern states, including Manipur, according to provisions of the 1958 law. ... Women in Manipur are at the forefront of a spirited drive against the act since 2004, alleging its vast powers are used by the military to rape or kill at will in the state where various groups are fighting for separate homelands. More than 50,000 people have died in various separatist drives in the northeastern states called the "seven sisters".  India's million-plus military, which enjoys limited autonomy, has so far not reacted to Singh's announcement.

4//The Moscow Times, Russia
UNITED RUSSIA TOUTS PLATFORM

Conservatives the world over favor small government. Social Democrats subscribe to the welfare state. And now there are the true believers of United Russia, who say they will fight for ordinary people, boost the economy and combat corruption. That, at least, was the platform mapped out by party leaders at United Russia's seventh congress this past weekend in Yekaterinburg. The platform follows five years of criticism that the pro-Kremlin party does not believe in anything.  "Every step enshrined in United Russia's strategy aims to increase the number of active people in our country," party leader and State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said Saturday at the congress. The congress was not only designed to launch United Russia's platform. It also kicked off a yearlong campaign for the Duma in late 2007. "We need to confirm United Russia's leadership, to win by a meaningful margin," Gryzlov said, vowing to continue on the course laid out by President Vladimir Putin. ... Meanwhile, about 2,000 protesters sought unsuccessfully to rally outside the Kosmos complex where the congress was being held. Police quickly dispersed the crowd.

5//DW-World.de/Deutsche Welle, Germany
SUNNY ECONOMIC FORECAST PROMPTS SPD CHIEF'S CALL FOR PAY HIKE

The leader of Germany's co-ruling Social Democrats, Kurt Beck, on Sunday called for higher sector-wide pay hikes in next year's wage round due to the sunny economic forecast.  Beck, whose SPD traditionally enjoys close ties to Germany's powerful trade unions, said that after years of moderation, it was the workers' turn to get a bigger slice of the cake. "It is time for a wage policy that grants employees appropriate pay increases," Beck told the mass-market Bild am Sonntag newspaper.  "Out of fairness but also in the interest of the economy, we need wage agreements that are appropriate to the economic situation," he added.  Beck said that in recent years sector wage agreements had been "very moderate" due to anemic economic growth but that it was now sensible to boost workers' buying power.  The SPD serves in a left-right 'grand coalition' with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Union bloc.

SITE OF THE DAY

The Jordan Times, Jordan
http://www.jordantimes.com/mon/index.htm

The Jordan Times, an independent paper out of Amman, is an excellent source of stories from the AFP (Agence France Presse).

FEATURED ARTICLE

1//The Jordan Times, Jordan      Monday, December 4, 2006

JITTERS IN BAHRAIN AFTER ISLAMIST POLL TRIUMPH

MANAMA (AFP) - The domination of Bahrain's parliament by Sunni and Shiite Islamists risks fuelling sectarian tensions between the two and restricting freedoms in the relatively liberal Gulf state, analysts said Sunday.  But a senior Bahraini official said that stunning electoral gains made by the Islamic National Accord Association (INAA), standard-bearer of the majority Shiite community in the Sunni-ruled country, could help resolve contentious issues within parliament.

"The makeup of the new parliament might trigger sectarian crises that would spill over onto the streets. I fear we will be torn between Fallujah and Najaf," columnist Sawsan Al Shaer told AFP.

Fallujah is a bastion of Sunni insurgents in Iraq while Najaf is the base of the country's Shiite clergy.

Saturday's second round of parliamentary elections gave Sunni Islamists new gains, as the opposition INAA boosted spectacular wins made in the first round on November 25.

Liberals were trounced, leaving three-quarters of parliament's 40 seats under the control of Shiite or Sunni Islamists, with the rest largely made up of independents close to either the government or Sunni Islamists.

(SNIP)

Fuad Shehab, a professor of modern history at Bahrain University, said the Bahrainis should "learn the lessons of Iraq and Lebanon" and avoid turning parliament into "an arena for sectarian discourse." "Sectarian agendas and extremism would not help us attract investors, who look for stability," Shehab told AFP.

"I fear that whatever remains of our individual freedoms will be undermined in the name of Islam ... and that the two (Sunni and Shiite Islamist) sides will agree on restricting liberties. That would be lethal for creativity and progress," he said.

Bahrain, a liberal country by conservative Gulf standards, is the leading banking center in the region. Unlike other Gulf Arab states, it does not export crude oil, only refined products from mainly Saudi crude.

(SNIP)

A senior Bahraini official who requested anonymity said that the fears raised by the heated election campaign are not justified since there is a difference between campaigning and shouldering the responsibility of office.

"The wide Shiite participation ... could help resolve many problems," he said.

Businessman Faruq Al Moayyed said he hoped the new parliament will "not limit individual freedoms as that would drive away foreign investors." A Manama-based Western diplomat warned that the Islamists would deal a fatal blow to the economy if they forced a ban on the sale of alcohol.

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH