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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- Pierre Gemayel -- a Christian Lebanese Cabinet minister and outspoken critic of Syria -- was assassinated yesterday in what the UK's Times said was "a brutal act calculated to bring down the pro-Western Government in Beirut and sabotage attempts to curb the influence of Hezbollah."

"Both the target and the timing underline the cynical attempt to stir sectarian conflict, blunt the Lebanese opposition to Syria and its Hezbollah allies and intimidate the Lebanese Government and all those proposing the setting-up of an international tribunal to try suspects in the killing of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri... Killing Mr Gemayel, militants argue, would swiftly kill off any U.S.-Syrian dialogue. Poor Lebanon, as often, is the victim. There are too many forces at work for whom death is an opportunity to be leveraged."

Beirut's Daily Star says the orchestrators of the attack are "ruthless and reckless" and cautions that Gemayel's assassination threatens extraordinary repercussions.

"The onus is on the forces of reason to ensure that the provocateurs are denied satisfaction in any way, shape or form. There must be no surrender to either the demands of a shadowy enemy or the temptation to take revenge on him by targeting innocents with no connection to the crime. Those who truly want Lebanon to change for the better understand that this cannot happen unless they unequivocally endorse due process and the rule of law -- especially on occasions when it is cruelly difficult to do so."

China-India

Chinese President Hu Jintao is in New Delhi this week to consolidate ties with India, but Calcutta's Telegraph says his visit is "ill-timed" because China's reluctance to approve of a recent Indo-US nuclear deal will be an obstacle while discussing economic ties between the two countries.

"At the present juncture, in any economic agreement between India and China, the former will inevitably be the weaker partner. China is India's second largest trading partner, but India is number 11 in China's list of trading partners. Moreover, 90 percent of China's imports from India are raw materials bought in bulk. But 35 percent of China's exports to India are high-value electronic goods and machinery. There is also India's trade deficit -- hovering at the $2 billion mark -- to consider. This will grow five-fold if tariffs against imports are dropped. Mr Hu's visit is thus plagued by some fundamental problems, which will be compounded if he displays too much camaraderie in Islamabad. The India chapter of the visit promises to be high on rhetoric and trivial on substance."

Meanwhile writer Pankaj Mishra says in The New York Times there are serious questions to be asked about the moral values that the two emerging superpowers of the new century are likely to embody.

"Upholding business interests above all in its foreign policy, as in its domestic policy, China at least appears to be internally consistent. The gap between image and reality is greater in the case of India, which claims to be the world's largest democracy, with an educated middle class and a free news media. And yet fundamental rights to clean water, food and work remain empty abstractions to hundreds of millions of Indians, whose plight rarely impinges on the news media's obsession with celebrity and consumption. The country's culture of greed partly explains why a woman is killed by her husband or in-laws every 77 minutes for failing to bring sufficient dowry... However tainted in practice, the idea of virtue cannot be discarded in policymaking. By treating it with contempt, the ruling elites of India and China may soon make the world nostalgic for the days when America claimed, deeply hypocritically, its moral leadership."

Casualties of culture

The Boston Globe says that Britain is fast emerging as the country most vulnerable to Islamic extremism in Europe.

"Some second- and third-generation Muslim youths, feeling not quite accepted in British society, are finding solace in religion. One of the great fallacies seems to have been the perception in the host countries of Europe that when Muslim youths went to European schools, adopted Western dress, listened to Western rock and played football they would become more secular, as have most Europeans. Today, as a political statement, many Muslim girls are wearing veils that their mothers never wore... There can be little doubt that strains between Muslims and non-Muslims are growing in Britain, which for so long, and rightfully so, prided itself on its tolerance. The entire concept of multiculturalism is being questioned here as never before."

Closely related, British writer Hari Kunzru says in the UK's Guardian that while multicultural politics once provided a light in the post-imperial gloom for a nation coming to terms with mass immigration, somehow the idea of culture has now got very confused in the UK.

"During the Danish cartoons controversy, a lot of the hacks solemnly draping themselves in the toga of European Enlightenment values were more accustomed to cooking up stories about swan-eating asylum seekers. Such people will never be happy until the darkies are back where we belong, holding trays of drinks in the background of Merchant Ivory movies. Our more serious conversation has to be with the communitarian politicians who feel happiest when dealing with us in groups. Instead of asking us as individual British citizens what we think or feel about contentious issues, our views are too often inferred from a dialogue conducted with so-called community leaders who are frequently self-appointed, and almost always cultural conservatives, with every incentive to take offence on our behalf in order to preserve their own access to funding and influence."

Abduction in Pakistan

Pakistan's Dawn, whose South Waziristan correspondent Dilawar Khan Wazir disappeared on Monday, says it is a shocking blow to the press fraternity in Pakistan and a direct attack on the freedom of its press. Khan Wazir also reports for the BBC's Urdu-language service.

"The circumstances in which he vanished and the manner in which an attempt was made to mislead his brother deepens the suspicion that this was more than a simple case of kidnapping for ransom or personal vendetta. A series of mishaps that befell the missing journalist's family in the last few months also confirms the fear that Mr Wazir had been put on the hit list for his professional work which evidently has aroused the ire of some agencies or groups... It speaks of a government's arrogance and contempt for the rule of law which prompts it to act as it sees fit in a no-holds-barred fashion. In this case, there are powers who do not want any facts relating to the 'war on terror' being waged in Waziristan to be made public."

Khan Wazir was released late yesterday, and media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders has called on Pakistani authorities to find out who was responsible for the kidnapping.

Kramer vs. Kramer

Actor Michael Richards, who played Kramer in the US sitcom "Seinfeld" made the news for all the wrong reasons last weekend after racially abusing a member of the audience during his stand-up act in a Hollywood Club. Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post says the incident is proof that racism is not yet history in the U.S.

"As a society, we still haven't purged ourselves of racial prejudices and animosities. We've buried them under layers of sincere enlightenment and insincere political correctness, but they're still down there, eating at our souls... [Richards] didn't see the heckler as a man, he saw him as a black man -- one who needed to be reminded that once upon a time he might have been lynched for his impertinence, and who needed to be put in his place with the most explosive word in the language... Don't tell me that racism is dead. It just shuns the light of day."

The Independent in the UK says Richards was not the only one shown up by the incident.

"Several cable news hosts did themselves little credit by asking the same crass question show after show: if it's okay for black performers to say 'n-----', why isn't it okay for white performers? -- the insinuation being that the distinction was racist in and of itself."


Pierre Gemayel's assassination was "a brutal act calculated to bring down the pro-Western Government," says the UK's Times.

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