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THE WORLD FROM...Algiers

In this North African capital, the 'new world order' is seen as the 'new world dictatorship'

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SPRING winds hold the promise of magnificent days in Algiers. When they blow, they carry away the haze and stench of urban pollution, leaving behind a sight to see on the mountainsides: the uniform whiteness of the medina and the younger colonial French quarters, speckled in the wealthier reaches with the greens of pine, cedar, and eucalyptus, all tumbling into the azure blue the Mediterranean was meant to be. Such days have been a frequent blessing to the Algerian capital lately, but one cannot help noticing that they have not been enough to put smiles on the faces of people who fill the streets.

Prices are sky-high, "overcrowded" is insufficient to describe average living conditions, jobs are scarce. People are frustrated by their perception that a country with the natural wealth of Algeria cannot manage to live as contentedly as such poorer neighbors as Tunisia and Morocco. June legislative elections offer hope, but also give rise to worries over a possible Islamic fundamentalist victory, or Army intervention in the event of post-election chaos.

All that is enough to keep the hop from people's step. But now there is a new element in the national pessimism: the new world order as proposed by President Bush. Mostly it has the country's intellectuals and top officials worried, although even chatty cabbies and circumspect students bring it up.

To Algerians, Mr. Bush's "new world order" is simply a euphemism for "new world dictatorship:" in some cases benevolent, in other cases not, but dangerous because inevitably working in the interest of the world's remaining superpower. In a country where the United States-led war against Iraq was vehemently opposed, the new world order is considered a threat to developing nations that do not wish to abide meekly by American interests.

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