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Europe

European Press Review: Blair and Fischer Go To Washington

Visits by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer dominated the editorial pages of newspapers in Europe's capitals on Friday.

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German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s visit did accomplished something -- it improved the relations between Washington and Berlin, wrote the editors of Germany’s Rhein Zeitung. The chemistry between Fischer and his counterpart, Colin Powell, were always good -- even during the frostiest of German-U.S. relations, and now that things are thawing, hurt pride around the White House appears to be fading, the paper wrote. Despite things not being perfectly sunny, the diplomatic tensions will soon be a thing of the past, the paper concluded.

Russia’s Nesawissimaja Gaseta also put Fischer’s trip under the loop, observing that Washington and Berlin were getting on well again -- at least at the foreign minister level. “Fischer can be happy with his visit with the pro-war side,” the paper wrote. But the daily went on to say that reconciliation of the ministers alone wouldn’t be enough to patch up the transatlantic gap that grew out of Germany’s opposition to the war. But that only goes half way. The paper predicted that President Bush and Chancellor Schröder would have to meet before relations could really improve, and the chances of such a meeting are currently slight.

Looking at the visit by British Prime Minister Blair with United States President George W. Bush, London’s Independent commented that, as someone who supported the war, Blair would have been justified in warning America about the dangers of going to war with Iraq and the responsibilities that would come with rebuilding it. The paper wrote that Blair could have said, “your nation stands for outstanding principles, but it chooses to forget them when threatened from the outside.” But the paper concluded: “It’s difficult for Blair to tell a powerful statesman and an admiring audience what they don’t want to hear.”

Italy’s La Repubblica criticized Blair, saying that while he gave a brilliant speech to Congress, in no way did he explain the case of non-existent Uranium. Instead, he just pounded out the old moral and political reasons for going to war. The paper took note of Blair’s quote that “history will forgive us, even if weapons of mass destruction are not found.” According to the paper’s editors, the quote marks a sort of a role-reversal for Blair. As America’s “junior partner,” it concluded, the prime minister should have defended the White House and stood up against its critics.

Several other papers continued to comment on the situation in Iraq. The Guardian’s editors examined the price of peace in Iraq – and that cost is alarming, they concluded. Just to keep the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq costs $4 billion a month. Add to that Britain’s 11,000 troops at a cost of $240 million per month. So far, the paper pointed out, the U.S. has shelled out $48 billion. If the occupation lasts up to four years, as Gen. Tommy Franks has predicted, that bill would soar to $200 billion. The paper said Washington’s friends and allies were bruised by its insistence to go to war without a UN mandate, and few countries are now prepared to offer troops – meaning Britain and American may have to foot the bill alone.

America won the war in a few weeks, but now it is in the process of losing the peace, wrote Austria’s Salzburger Nachrichten. Just 11 weeks after U.S. President Bush announced the end of major combat, the central command chief general said the troops were facing a new guerrilla-style war. From the moment the gun-powder settled until now, the inability and the reluctance of the U.S. to rebuild Iraq has been clear, the paper’s editors wrote. They haven’t been able to provide basic human needs, like water, electricity or security. The Iraqi hearts they may have won over initially have now gone cold, the paper concluded.