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Europe

German Press Review: Afghanistan's Cry For Help

German papers on Thursday reviewed the Third International Conference on Afghanistan underway in Berlin, which is focusing on increasing reconstruction aid, fighting the drug trade and stabilizing the country.

The Mannheimer Morgen said that three quarters of the world's raw opium is produced on the poppy fields of Afghanistan. The narcotics business is extremely lucrative. One hectare of poppy yields $12,000; wheat just $300. Provincial warlords finance their private armies with the burgeoning profits, but the farmers receive just a pittance for their labors, the paper added. It would be possible to persuade them to grow something else, especially if they were given financial inducements. But first the poppy fields have to be destroyed, which would mean declaring war on the warlords. The daily concluded it would be a dangerous undertaking.

The Ostthüringer Zeitung said the postponement of elections in Afghanistan from June to September is a cry for help. Things are not going as well as many had hoped at the first international donors' conference, the paper opined. But is this Berlin conference worth the effort, the paper asked? It is, the paper said, because it offers support to those who are working towards a better future for Afghanistan. it is also the only way in which threats to country can be effectively defused.

The Märkischer Oderzeitung said a high level of risk and uncertainty surrounds the continued presence of German troops in Afghanistan. Developments in Kosovo have demonstrated that peace cannot be secured without political solutions, the paper wrote. International military protectorates are no substitute for the building of a new civil society. Nonetheless, it is clear that if the Bundeswehr and other army units were to pull out of the Balkans or Afghanistan, then the opposing factions would start fighting again and terrorists and fundamentalists would gain the upper hand, the paper warned and added that such is the dilemma in which the West finds itself.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung said that after more than two decades of war, destruction, displacement, tyranny and repression, the people of Afghanistan lack any sense

of belonging that could give rise to a new national identity. It is the dependence on warlords that keeps Afghanistan divided, more so than the divisions between the ethnic groups, the paper wrote. The country is being torn apart by inner conflict and donors' conference do not have a panacea.

Other papers focused on the near collapse of the Mannesmann trial after a judge threw out the charges of illegal payments during Vodafone's take-over of mobile phone operator Mannesmann in 2000. The move signaled an early acquittal for the six defendants, among them Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann.

Business daily Handelsblatt said that the question whether paying successful managers millions of euros in bonuses is in the interests of a company has yet to be answered. Many lawyers believe generous bonuses to be damaging, but shareholders and company staff may

disagree. They want a return on their capital or a good job. If these goals are attained by rewarding excellence in managers, then that can be in the interest of the company. Courts cannot decide when the size of a bonus payment ceases to be appropriate. In future, industry should act responsibly and exercise restraint, the paper urged.