Sunday, January 30, 2005
Honestly, who cares about the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, when significantly more far-reaching events are taking place today in Iraq? Maybe that's why, with the world attention turned to Mesopotamia, the Forum is degenerating into even more of a farce:
"A dinner designed to promote dialogue between Iran and the United States on Friday night began with a comic strip series of diplomatic and gastronomic blunders, and ended with a sharp exchange over nuclear weapons.(hat tip: Tim Blair) Elsewhere, Australia's Prime Minister John Howard found himself having to defend common sense:
"With Iran's vice-president and foreign minister in the room, the organizers began by announcing they had disinvited Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte, one of the listed panelists, because the issues were too serious.
"The star guest, U.S. Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, was missing. The organizers kept saying he was on his way.
"Moderator David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, apologized for the fact that wine had been served, upsetting the Muslim guests. Waiters cleared the offending glasses.
"They also removed the menus since the hotel had planned to serve non-hallal meat, breaching Islamic dietary rules. Even the soup spoons were withdrawn -- erroneously, it transpired."
"John Howard has leapt to the defence of US President George W. Bush, who has come under fire from international leaders at the World Economic Forum. 'I think some of the criticism of the Americans by some of the Europeans is unfair and irrational and I have said so,' Mr Howard said.Back to Baghdad.
"He did so in a forthright manner during one debate on US global relations in which he grew increasingly disenchanted with the tone of the argument against the war and criticism of Mr Bush's recent inauguration speech, in which he did not mention Iraq. 'Can I just say, I mean, the negative mindset of the last five minutes is ridiculous - of course America has made mistakes and of course there will be modifications of policy,' Mr Howard interjected during the debate.
"He said the critics had misinterpreted Mr Bush's speech and told them the US president would not be altering his stance. 'I don't think there will be fundamental changes in American policy over the next four years,' he said.
"The non-attendance of Mr Bush or any of his senior administrators at the Swiss summit, which has attracted 2500 political and business leaders, has been seen as a snub by many in the forum.
"Mr Howard said Mr Bush had plenty of support and denied the world was adopting an anti-Bush stance. 'No, that is not. That is the view in some parts of Europe, but not the view in others,' he said. 'It's not the view in eastern Europe for example. You talk to the president of Latvia who took part in that meeting, you talk to the representative of Afghanistan, that is not their view.'
"Mr Howard also backed Mr Bush's invasion of Iraq as opposed to relying on United Nations action which he said was not always effective. 'The reality is, and it was proved in Bosnia, it was proved in Kosovo, that if you rely entirely on the international institutions, it won't work,' Mr Howard said. 'I'm not anti the United Nations, I'm in favour of the United Nations when it works'."