International Notes

WFTU criticizes Bush threats vs. Iran, Iraq and North Korea

The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) has written to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, expressing “grave concern at the serious threats to international security” implied in President George Bush’s statements against Iran, Iraq and North Korea in his Jan. 29 State of the Union address. The WFTU said there is “wide apprehension that the unilateral military actions that were undertaken without reference to the U.N. Security Council will be further escalated to include these countries.” The WFTU noted that several U.N. member states, including the European Union, have expressed serious concern, “since the unilateral actions by the U.S. administration threaten the peace and security of nations and peoples of the world.” It asked the Secretary General to urge the U.N. Security Council “to examine these extremely serious threats and take all possible measures to ensure that all members states respect international law and the U.N. Charter.”



Canadian university students demand tuition freeze

College and university students and their supporters rallied in 70 communities throughout Canada Feb. 6, demanding a freeze in tuition fees, the Canadian newspaper People’s Voice reported last week. One of the most dramatic protests was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where students took over a downtown bank for three hours. After increases totaling 127 percent over the last decade, Nova Scotia undergraduates now pay over $4,500 a year for an arts program. The province’s 11 universities say they plan to raise tuition by as much as 14 percent next year unless the province increases funding. The provincial government in turn blames cuts in federal funding for the situation. Sid Ryan, Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, urged students to work with the labor movement. “The factory workers, the people picking up garbage in the street, the average working class person can’t afford to send their children to school. Let’s work to change that,” he said.



Greek troops in Balkans to get new medical tests

Greek soldiers who are serving or have served in the Balkans will undergo new medical tests, the Greek newspaper Nea said last week. Some 6,500 troops will undergo tests with special equipment with higher sensitivity in counting depleted uranium levels. Concern has been widespread over the dangers presented by use of depleted uranium ammunition by U.S. and NATO forces during fighting in the former Yugoslavia.



European Network for Peace and Human rights established

“We come from many different countries, municipalities and organizations ... We hold in common the belief that the first aim in all disputes should be to find solutions which build and secure peace, guarantee human rights, and protect the environment,” the European Network for Peace and Human Rights stated at its founding conference in Brussels Feb. 1. “A better world is possible,” said the Network, but warned that “we face a turning point. We are in a situation where the greatest military and economic power on earth has declared war on its enemies as it perceives them,” with the support of most European governments. “We express our profound sympathy for all victims of terrorism, including state terror,” the Network said. “But war cannot be the way to defeat terror.” The U.S. is prepared to use the most dangerous mass destruction weapons, and is extending its power into space in its search for “full spectrum dominance,” the statement said. The Network called on the growing protest movements to join together to resist military solutions and search for peace and justice.



Opposition leader criticizes Nepal over rebel attack

In the wake of last week’s attack by Maoist rebels on government facilities in a remote area of Nepal that left at least 154 people dead, the leader of the main opposition party sharply criticized the government for not taking preventive action. “The government has failed to provide security and prevent the attack, despite having information about the possible assault,” said Pradeep Nepal, spokesperson of the main opposition party in Parliament, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist). The raids were the deadliest since the rebels launched their revolt in 1996. The UML had criticized the rebels for breaking the ongoing dialogue for a national consensus and criticized both the government and the rebels for pursuing their own interests at the expense of the civil rights won through mass struggle over a decade ago.



South Korean women protest Bush statements

Over three dozen South Korean women’s organizations are warning that President George Bush’s “hard-line rhetoric directed at North Korea is a threat to Koreans who have worked so hard for peace and peaceful reunification on the Korean peninsula.” Their statement was issued as students, labor and religious organizations were protesting before Bush’s first visit to South Korea. His characterization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea runs counter to South Korean president Kim Dae Jung’s official policy of dialogue with the north. “Bush’s pronouncement has come at a time when many active non-governmental exchanges have been revived among South Koreans and North Koreans, again building a spirit of trust between South and North,” the women’s organizations said. They protested Bush’s “promotion of an atmosphere of war” and rejected “any kind of military action that increases tension and conflict on the Korean peninsula.”