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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- With reports that the Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the New York Times says whatever this election accomplishes, it has done nothing to "end the rancor and distrust that define current American politics."

But the paper says one issue that both parties have found common ground on is that Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Defense Secretary, has to go.

"While Democrats have been demanding a new secretary of defense for a long time, Republicans -- worried about re-election as well as the course of the war -- began to join the outcry this fall. Some made it part of their campaign mantras. Many others have been complaining in quiet about Mr. Rumsfeld's continued job security. Even people who are strong supporters of the continued presence of American troops in Iraq acknowledge that there needs to be a change. It's possible that no one could have turned the invasion into a success, given the fissures in Iraqi society that the fall of Saddam Hussein have exposed. But we will never know, since the shortage of American troops and the lack of postwar planning made disaster inevitable. Mr. Rumsfeld deserves to go simply because he has failed at his job. Denying that reality is presumably why the president is so bent on keeping him."

Iraq and the U.S. are indelibly linked in the papers: Lebanon's The Daily Star says "what was not acknowledged during Saddam Hussein's trial is that the dictator was at least in part a Frankenstein, a monstrous creation of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

"Far from becoming a model of democracy, the country is degenerating toward utter chaos. A controversial study published by The Lancet, the British medical journal, suggests that as many as 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war, or twice as many as were killed during Saddam's 24-year reign of terror. When and if Saddam is eventually hanged, Iraqis will finally be rid of a dictator who brutalized his own people. But it may be a long time before they escape the stranglehold of tyranny and brutality, which are just as pervasive, if not more so, in the era wrought by what the United States called 'Operation Iraqi Freedom.'"

Meanwhile The Independent in the UK says Hussein has, in a "perverse" way, benefited from the trial that condemned him to death by hanging.

"He may not have saved his life but he shored up his reputation, tapping into resentment felt by Iraqis over the occupation. Like that other dethroned strongman, Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, he used his podium, twinning his own plight with that of his nation's perceived humiliation. Whether the trial was as unfair as he and some human rights organizations have claimed is questionable ... The real tragedy is that the verdict no longer seems to matter. The significance of Saddam's worst deeds has been virtually obviated in most Iraqi minds by more recent, daily, slaughters of innocent civilians."

On a related note, India's Deccan Herald reports that the situation in Afghanistan is fast approximating that in Iraq.

"The number of suicide attacks and bomb blasts is spiraling upward. The Taliban are carrying out attacks in urban centers that are not under their control, signaling that their influence extends across the country. It appears that the number of foreign fighters among the insurgents is growing rapidly. The U.S. administration repeatedly spoke about the more than satisfactory support it was receiving from Pakistan in battling the Taliban. These claims stand exposed by the unfolding mess in Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the Bush administration has been making false claims or simply believing its own propaganda."

Opening Europe's doors

The New York Times reports that with the EU releasing a report criticizing Turkey for slowing the pace of domestic reforms and not normalizing relations with Cyprus, the country's negotiations to join the EU have become a sour affair.

"There is no mystery to either side's waning enthusiasm. Europeans, confronting the rise of violent Islamic radicalism, are wary about letting a huge Muslim country into the club. In Turkey, nationalists in and out of the military and Islamic fundamentalists are pressuring Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to slow reforms. Their hand, in turn, has been strengthened by the anti-Turkey rhetoric spouting from some European politicians."

The International Herald Tribune says it is imperative that the debate on the EU's conclusions is "framed within a true strategic perspective."

"As we are completing the fifth enlargement with about 100 million new citizens of the European Union, our strategic focus will shift to the 100 million people of the western Balkans and Turkey. How this process is handled will have profound implications for the future of Europe. We have a moral obligation to seek the European integration of the countries of the western Balkans, and although conditionality remains the key to progress, we must do our utmost to help them meet those conditions."

Ortega is back

For those hailing the return to power of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua after 16 years as a triumph for the left in Latin America, The Guardian in the UK says in truth he had never really left power to begin with.

"But let's take a closer look at Ortega, the great revolutionary hero, the man Chavez calls his 'brother'. I recently revisited Nicaragua, 19 years after I went there to join a coffee-picking brigade: as I found, a great deal has changed since the Sandinistas lost power in 1990, but Ortega is still in business. Although he has now regained the presidency after 16 years, the fact is Ortega never really left power. True to his promise on losing the 1990 election, he has continued to 'rule from below'. Large parts of the Nicaraguan state, including the justice system, have remained under the control of Ortega."

Pakistan's Dawn says "below his receding hairline Ortega still sports his iconic moustache, and that, notwithstanding all his professions of moderation, sufficed for the US to interfere in the Nicaraguan electoral process via a plethora of dire warnings and unconscionable threats, often couched in the viciously uncompromising language that characterizes the Bush administration yet is also reminiscent of the Reagan era. Not only will aid and assistance cease [with Ortega's] victory, but there are moves afoot to seal off the remittances from relatives working in the U.S. and elsewhere that serve as a vital lifeline for substantial numbers of Nicaraguans ... Ortega's extraordinary comeback won't mean much if he is unable to meaningfully improve socio-economic conditions for the majority of his compatriots. On the other hand, if his best efforts are thwarted once more by the ideologically motivated machinations of an imperialist-minded neighbor, it will be another black mark against the most powerful rogue nation of all, which all too frequently favors the noose as an instrument of vengeance."


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