Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"U.S. President Splits Europe," Says Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"U.S. President Splits Europe," Says Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Article excerpt

Lucy Jones is a free-lance journalist based in London.

Under the headline "Europe and America must stand united," the London Times on Jan. 30 carried a declaration signed by eight European leaders--the prime ministers of the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Hungary and Poland, and the Czech Republic's outgoing President Vaclav Havel.

"The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security," the declaration said. "We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time... We are confident that the [United Nations] Security Council will face up to its responsibilities," it continued.

The following day the French and German press criticized their European partners' support for Washington's Iraq policy. In an editorial titled, "Bush and his eight mercenaries," France's Liberation on Jan. 31 described the statement as a "smart missile" aimed at "France's pretension to lead a revolt at the United Nations to deflect, or even counter, Bush's desire to finish off Saddam Hussain." Concluded the paper: "The leaders in Washington dream of preventing the emergence of a strong Europe capable of challenging America."

On the same day Le Figaro said the declaration had caused "diplomatic pandemonium in Europe," adding that "the notion of a European `common front' has vanished into thin air." Le Monde of Jan. 31 said many European leaders viewed what it called "the gang of eight" as "raising grave problems for the European Union."

In Germany, Die Welt on Jan. 31 said the statement has "sounded the death knell" for a common European foreign and security policy even before it has become a reality. According to that day's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, it now will be easier for the U.S. to ignore European opposition to a war on Iraq. "Europe's disgrace lies in the symbolism of the gesture itself," the newspaper commented.

The joint statement also was criticized elsewhere. Austria's Die Presse of Jan. 31 said the eight signatories "have let it be unmistakably understood that Washington can count on them even when it embarks on dubious adventures." Spain's El Periodico of the same day urged that Madrid "must not help Bush," as that would "discredit the United Nations and weaken the EU." Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta of Jan. 31 published the statement with a headline "U.S. president splits Europe."

"Blix Forces Bush to Wait," Notes Le Figaro

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's Jan. 27 report to the U.N. was considered by Sweden's Sydsvenska Dagbladet the following day to be "hot enough." Britain's tabloid The Sun on Jan. 28 described Saddam "as deadly as a tank of piranhas." Arguing that "The search for these weapons cannot go on much longer," the newspaper recommended that "A few more weeks are all Saddam should be given. If it drags on too long, the U.N. will make itself a laughing stock."

The same day, however, Britain's Mirror said: "The highly critical report by United Nations weapons inspectors confirmed what everyone already knew about this thoroughly nasty piece of work. But what it didn't do is confirm what George Bush and Tony Blair want us to believe: that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and intends to use them. And that is the crux of this dangerous situation."

In France, "Blix forces Bush to wait" was the verdict of France's Le Figaro of Jan. 28. Liberation on the same day said Blix had "refused to take sides with the supporters or the opponents of military action against Saddam Hussain," and went on to say that the "extension of the U.N. mission...was not a foregone conclusion." By agreeing to the extension, the newspaper suggested, Bush and Blair "have shown they are not indifferent" to the views of the U.N.

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of Jan. 28 detected ulterior motives behind the emerging consensus that the inspectors should be granted more time. …

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