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Europe

European Press Review: A Damocles Sword

European papers on Tuesday commented on the dramatic rise in oil prices as well as on British finance minister Gordon Brown's glowing speech at the Labor party conference.

La Repubblica in Rome said the reasons for the current high oil prices are more political than economic. It listed the factors contributing to it: the crisis in Nigeria, where rebels are threatening oil concerns Shell and Agip, the ongoing attacks on Iraq’s oil pipelines and the insecurity in Saudi Arabia. On top of those geopolitical factors, the daily said, are the hurricanes which have damaged off-shore oil production in the Golf of Mexico and the ongoing financial crisis with Russia’s oil giant Yukos. The paper grimily added that all of this compounds historically high levels of oil consumption and the imminent arrival of winter.

Les Echos in Paris also struck an ominous note with the coming of winter and the high price of oil. It said that if the prices stay as high as they are it will have an impact on the economy. It will take at least a year to recover from the consequences of the current prices, it said and concluded that a sword of Damocles hangs over the year 2005.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented on US President George W. Bush’s reaction to the oil prices. Bush has said he’s going to sell some of the country’s oil reserves. However, the paper said, his motive is not to sink world oil prices, but to make up for the production losses caused by the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The paper noted that Bush has succeeded in drawing Americans’ attention towards the fact that the United States is dependent on foreign oil, something Bush views as a risk for national security. The daily predicted that he will use the current crisis as an excuse to open up drilling in a sensitive Arctic region in Alaska. Sadly, the paper added, many voters in America don’t care about the reasons for high oil prices as long as they get cheap oil in the end.

British papers on Tuesday focused on the Labor Party's annual conference and the impassioned speech made by British Finance Minister Gordon Brown.

The Daily Telegraph noted that Brown’s speech at the annual conference never fails to inject dramatic tension and his performance on Monday was no exception. The paper said the grand historical and global perspective, its oratory intensity and its ideological evangelism went down well among the delegates. This, remarked the daily, was a speech of a man consumed with the ambition to lead the Labor Party.

The Guardian agreed that Gordon Brown’s speech warmed Labor's cockles and called it the most effective speech he has ever made. The paper said the difference between Brown and Blair is the finance minister speaks to the party and the prime minister speaks to the world.