The two leading candidates for the French presidential elections, whose first round will occur in April, offer the French electorate a clear choice in their differing foreign policies. If elected, either of the two leading candidates — Nicolas Sarkozy, from the governing center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) party, and Ségolène Royal, from the opposition Parti Socialiste (PS) — could introduce considerable changes in French policies regarding the European Union, the United States, and other key issues. Both candidates have made clear their intention to adopt policies that differ from those of the current French president, Jacques Chirac. Since […]

Some statements go down in history with such a painful belly flop that one can never again quote them without thoroughly soaking them in the deceptively soothing balm of irony. It’s not quite Chamberlain’s immortal “peace in our time,” but the words uttered by President George W. Bush on Sept. 5, 2001, little more than seven months into his first term, clearly fall in this category. That day, the Bush White House was hosting its first official state visit. President Bush stood next to Mexican president Vicente Fox on the South Lawn and earnestly declared, “The United States has no […]

BRUSSELS — Buying a packet of cigarettes in Belgium these days can be a harrowing experience. European cartons already carry large health warnings, such as “Smoking Kills” and “Smoking When Pregnant Harms Your Baby,” often framed in black and occupying up to half the surface of the pack. But from May, smokers in this rain-swept country of 10 million people will also been confronted with graphic pictorial warnings on their cigarette packs. The pictures are not for the faint-hearted. One shows a man with a swollen-red tumour protruding from his neck. “Smoking can lead to a slow and painful death,” […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines has broken her silence and called on Manila to end extrajudicial killings. On Feb. 27, U.S. ambassador Kristie Kenney said that human rights are critical to every democratic country and asked President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to do all she can to stop the murderous spree. “Let’s beef up the human rights in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and make every effort to investigate, prosecute those responsible, [and] exonerate the innocent,” she said when pressed by reporters. Ambassador Kenney did not say whether the United States will be involved in the […]

With the advent of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and the unfolding of the Lewis Libby perjury trial, the famous “16 words” are back and, in the most literal possible sense, with a vengeance. It is not only on MSNBC or in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly — which had a cover story on Presidential lying — that “Bush lied!” is again the order of the day. In Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Iraq last month, one Senator after another seized the opportunity to assail the administration’s credibility. “I have not been told the truth again […]

TOKYO — With his cabinet’s popularity hitting new lows according to a poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the opportunity of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit last week to highlight one of his pet issues — the abduction by North Korean agents of up to 20 Japanese citizens. Abe’s tough stance on North Korea has always been a political trump card for him, bringing him to prominence under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. During Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang in 2002, he led negotiations on behalf of the families of those abducted, and then […]

TEHRAN, Iran — What was the Soviet ambassador’s car doing, parked inside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, during the height of the Cold War? Relations between staunch U.S. ally Riyadh and committed adversary Moscow were at an all-time low, as Soviet arms and funding were being delivered to a number of Arab nationalist, anti-royalist regimes, such as Nasserite Egypt, Marxist Southern Yemen and Baathist Syria. “What is the ambassador doing in our embassy?” Abdurrahman Ar-Rashed, the current editor of Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, recalls asking of then-Saudi Ambassador to London, Sheikh Nassir Al-Manqoor. “We do not […]

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Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign affairs correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every week by Sunday morning. Click here for the Corridors of Power archives. ET TU COSSIGA? — Every Italian political crisis worthy of the name is flavored with a dollop of conspiracy. In Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s sudden resignation earlier this week, one conspiracy involves Senator-for-Life Francesco Cossiga, whose defection from the government ranks in the vote that defeated the Prodi administration came as a surprise. A former president of the republic and still an influential figure in Italian politics, Cossiga is […]

WASHINGTON — Blame the sign, or the sumptuous location in the heart of what the world’s diplomatic capital calls “embassy row.” The affair, held on a freezing afternoon in late January, certainly had draw. More than two dozen people, nearly all men and nearly all somewhat dodgy looking in that classic discrete-agent-of-a-foreign-government sort of way, gathered to bid on a hulking, neglected row-house boasting a fabulously curious sign: “BANK AUCTION, FORMER LIBIAN EMBASSY.”<<ad>>Any auction is bound to make the heart beat fast, regardless of whether the crowd features shady characters from various diplomatic outposts. But when they do drop in […]

HARBEL, Liberia — White latex oozed from the vein of the rubber tree, dripping into a small plastic bucket. Saa Morris, an illiterate 48 year old and father of nine, used his knife-edged pole to slice into the vein. Then the “tapper” moved on to another tree on one of the world’s largest rubber plantations, owned by American tire maker Firestone. By his own account, Morris taps no less than 750 trees in a day and sometimes as many as 903. That earns him his daily wage of $3.30. “We doing hard work in the bush here, but no good […]

Last month’s uranium smuggling episode in Georgia has renewed concerns about nuclear terrorism. In that incident, a rogue Russian trader sought to sell 100 grams of highly enriched uranium on the local black market. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the primary multinational institution involved in these issues, 662 confirmed cases of smuggling of radioactive materials occurred between 1993 and 2004. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recorded 215 reported incidents of nuclear trafficking in 2005 alone (though it is unclear whether the increase resulted from more sales attempts or improved detection and reporting procedures). At the […]

PERUGIA, Italy — Following a humbling defeat in a foreign policy vote in the Senate, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned Wednesday evening. After weathering a nine-month political storm with an extremely narrow Senate majority, the government was beaten on its strongest suit. “Foreign policy was one of the few things that were working,” commented foreign minister Massimo D’Alema, who, boasting a 62 percent approval rating, is the most popular member of the frail Prodi government. Prodi’s government coalition, L’Unione, failed to obtain the majority in a vote aimed at legitimizing the government’s foreign policy ahead of the crucial Feb. […]

The mosque’s golden dome gleamed like a fallen sun, burning out the mud-colored city of Samarra with its broken shops and acres of cinderblock poverty. Two slender minarets framed the dome in regal style and a grid of delicate scaffolding wound around it, suggesting repairs planned and then stalled, probably because of the war. From the neighborhoods beyond, streams of black smoke bled into the winter sky above satellite dishes and slack electric wires. I watched the dome through the battered back window of a U.S. medevac helicopter as it descended to retrieve wounded soldiers at a makeshift landing zone. […]

A string of sectarian attacks and arrests over the last month demonstrate Pakistan’s continuing battle to eradicate Sunni-Shiite violence is far from over, despite Pakistani authorities’ repeated calls for unity and public actions against militant groups over the last six years. Observers worry that Sunni-Shiite violence across Iraq is feeding into Pakistan’s decades-long sectarian conflict, threatening the South Asian nation’s already-troubled efforts to contain militant groups. Homegrown violence only adds to Pakistan’s already significant worries over continued conflict in neighboring Afghanistan, persistent Taliban and al-Qaida presence in Pakistan, and widespread discontent with President Pervez Musharraf’s rule. “Each attack, small or […]

Since it first came to light a few years ago, the kidnapping of up to 17 Japanese citizens by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s has captured the attention of the Japanese nation, influenced its domestic politics and become a central concern of Japanese foreign policy. And now, an American folk singer is bringing his talents to bear in an effort to bring some resolution to the situation. On Tuesday, Noel Paul Stookey, a member of the legendary group Peter, Paul and Mary, debuted his “Song for Megumi” at a Tokyo press conference attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo […]

One of the most important issues the new Congress will need to address is how to revise the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). During President Bush’s visit to the Baltic countries, in late November 2006, he announced the administration’s intention to seek a limited expansion of the VWP, providing new entrants accept measures yielding what Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has termed a “net increase in security.” A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators recently introduced the Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2007 to achieve this objective. On Feb. 15, the Senate Homeland Security and […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — China’s warming relationship with the Southeast Asian military regime the West loves to hate is emerging as a vital element in solving one of Beijing’s biggest problems — energy security. The jungles of Burma now seem certain to provide a shortcut for oil from the Middle East and Africa to the Chinese border. With China scouring the world for oil and gas supplies to replace its own rapidly decreasing reserves, strategists have pondered the potential security problem posed for Beijing by the Malacca Strait, wedged between Indonesia and Malaysia and through which between 70 and 80 percent […]

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