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European Press Review: A Hiccup in the War on Terror

With an eye toward Tuesday's attacks against Westerners in Saudi Arabia, editorialists at a handful of Europe's leading newspapers conclude that the war on terror isn't enough to stop Osama bin Laden and his ilk.


Munich's Abendzeitung wrote that the bomb attack in Riyadh showed that Osama bin Laden's followers haven't been beaten. "Since Sept. 11, al Qaeda has committed five large acts of terror," the paper noted. "The war in Afghanistan couldn't stop them, neither could the war in Iraq. The world is learning that you can't fight terrorism with armies. Solid police work can help and so can policies that solve conflicts between people and religions instead of inflaming them."

Britain's Guardian, meanwhile, saw four distinct implications emerging from the attacks. One: The military victory of the United States and its allies in Iraq has not had the immediate deterrent effect on terrorism that the Americans and British had hoped for. Two: Washington is likely to use this attack to justify giving yet another impetus for the war on terrorism. Three: These attacks could lead to further repression in Saudi Arabia, thus creating a new regional instability. And finally, the London paper saw a fourth implication: The world is now such that all countries must learn to live with a certain level of terrorism and prepare for it as best as they can.

Italy's La Republicca predicted the attacks would reduce Bush's chances in the next elections despite his military victory in Iraq, writing: "On his way to being reelected the president could stumble over terrorism." In the age of television, the Rome-based paper concluded, Tuesday's "bloodshed is of more importance than yesterday's military victory."

Commenting on the plans of the United States to sue the European Union unless it opened its market to genetically modified foods, the British daily Financial Times opined: "Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision, the timing is decidedly odd. The European Commission has been striving to reopen the EU market to GM foods. A U.S. challenge could strengthen the resistance of the countries and the European parliamentarians opposed to lifting the ban. It is certainly unlikely to improve public confidence in GM food." That’s why the paper argued that the dispute should be solved through bilateral negotiations rather than by calling on the World Trade Organization.

Countrywide strikes on Tuesday against the government's plans for pension reforms dominated the majority of French editorial pages on Wednesday. Le Figaro called on Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin to hold out despite the protests, saying the reforms are substantial for France: "Of course there were many protesters on the street. But their only message was that they refused the reforms –- although everyone knows that they are necessary." This is why France must choose now, the paper argued: "Either it discovers that it can progress and adjust. Or it will keep on declining and be again a victim of its own antagonism."