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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- The International Herald Tribune has drawn attention to cluster bombs left behind in farms and residential areas by Israeli forces after this year's 34-day war. The paper reports how the unexploded ordnance now kills an average of three people a day, while Lebanese farmers continue to risk their lives to harvest the current crop and plant a new one.

"With agricultural lands still contaminated, denying most farmers access to their land, other harvests are spoiling as well, including much of the lucrative olive crop, and next year's crops go unplanted. The main thing growing in southern Lebanon right now, apart from the death toll, appears to be an economic crisis... What the farmers need most of all is financial compensation for their crop losses this year and until the unexploded ordnance is cleared and they can safely farm their land and resume production. It should be buffered by targeted livelihood schemes that enable farmers to contribute fruitfully to the reconstruction process in their own communities until their land is cleared and is safe."

On a related note Beirut's Daily Star says U.S. policy regarding Lebanon and the Middle East is unlikely to change with a new leadership at the helm of both houses of legislature.

"The recent Lebanon conflict and the overwhelming bipartisan reaction further crystallized the lack of a congressional foreign policy debate on the Middle East. Instead of weighing the merits of Israeli actions and how it would impact the long-term strategic interests of Israel, Lebanon's fragile democracy, broader regional stability and ultimately US national interests, the congressional debate degenerated into a contest for who could provide the most unqualified support for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policies. Legislators who begged to differ on the floors of the Senate and House were attacked for veering from the mainstream bipartisan congressional orthodoxy."

Israel's Haaretz calls for more of the same however, with "another round of bloodshed underway in the Gaza strip."

"The United States has shown leadership during times of crisis in the region, such as last summer in putting together the cease-fire in Lebanon. It is now time it makes further effort in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, and thinks again about the possibility of mediating between Israel and Syria."

U.S. election fall-out

Papers around the world continue to analyze the effects of last week's midterm elections in the US, speculating on how it will affect international affairs, economics, and business. Singapore's Business Times says with the rise of the Democratic party in the U.S. Congress, the influence of unions and environmental groups opposed to free trade and globalization will also increase.

"But free trade is crucial to sustaining global growth. To a certain extent, America can afford to chart its own course because of its size. But economic nationalism will end up hurting the United States, too. If America turns protectionist, developed countries facing similar political pressures may be encouraged to do the same. This may provoke a backlash from developing countries who may erect their own trade barriers, and U.S. companies will face closed markets. The ultimate casualty of protectionism will be global growth."

The UK's Guardian says the elections results show that democracy still functions in America, with the war, the corruption, and the sleaze serving as a "triple-whammy" for the Republicans.

"The ballot has done its purgative work. The Republicans have suffered their deserved fate. The plan to construct a perpetual right-wing hegemony over America has been exploded. The optimistic way of looking at these elections is that they will lead to a United States that takes a smarter and less unilateralist approach to the rest of the world. Whether this happens will firstly depend on whether Bush accommodates defeat or attempts to defy it."

Commenting on the recent appointment of former CIA director Robert Gates as Donald Rumsfeld's replacement as defense secretary, Japan's Asahi Shimbun says the decision should have come earlier -- and that Bush will not get away with pinning the blame for the Iraq debacle on Rumsfeld alone. Tellingly, the paper says the change will also have implications for other countries.

"Rumsfeld's exit likewise should prompt serious reflection on the part of countries that have followed the United States down the road in Iraq. The administrations of Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe, which have consistently voiced support for the war in Iraq, are certainly no exceptions to the rule."

Time magazine has termed the result "a bid deal" with potentially far reaching international implications.

"Bush's decision to delay the sacking of Rumsfeld until after the election will undoubtedly stand as one of the greatest mistakes of his presidency. It was a purely political decision, straight from the Karl Rove playbook: show no sign of weakness or indecision in the midst of a campaign--or, as Bill Clinton neatly summarized it, strong and wrong beats weak and right. Not this time."

Ortega's return

India's Hindu says that if Daniel Ortega "decides to go by his ideological moorings, the Nicaraguan President will strengthen the leftist tide that is sweeping Latin America."

"A United States administration in which several sponsors of the one-time 'contras' figure quite prominently obviously thinks that the revolutionary leader has not changed. In a blatant interference in Nicaragua's internal affairs, the U.S. let it be known that aid might be cut if Mr. Ortega was elected. As a counter to this new manifestation of hegemonism, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez promised to provide cheap oil and other forms of support if the Sandinista National Liberation Front's leader was returned to power."

The New York Times says an important reason why Ortega was re-elected was because the Sandinista leader "shed his Marxist rhetoric and, conscious of the need to seduce a profoundly Catholic nation, mended fences with the Roman Catholic Church he had once persecuted."

"What this farcical saga tells us is that Daniel Ortega was much more interested in being president than in being principled and, more important, that anyone who wants to lead today's Nicaragua needs to persuade voters that he will respect the rule of law and private property, will try to lure investment and will be sensitive to the nation's religious heritage. The fact that Mr. Ortega's past conduct casts a shadow over the proclamation that he is a reformed character does not detract from the fact that Nicaragua has not voted for radical leftist policies."

Nigeria's savior and menace

The LA Times says that while Nigeria's president Olusegun Obasanja has done more for the country than any leader in its modern history, Nigerians and the international community should now keep the pressure on him to step aside.

"Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and the United States' fifth-biggest source of imported oil, was a basket case until Obasanjo was elected in 1999. Since then, he has reformed the nation's chaotic banking sector, battled its endemic corruption and built a foundation for democracy in a nation that has never seen a peaceful transition from one elected leader to another.

"But he also is nearing the end of his second and final term as president, and he has shown a worrying reluctance to step down as planned in April 2007. Five months ago, he tried to rewrite Nigeria's constitution to allow for a third term but was rebuffed by parliament. Other recent actions look suspiciously like the machinations of a budding dictator, and they may not only undo most of the good Obasanjo has accomplished but perhaps plunge his country into civil war."


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