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Europe

European Press Review: Blair and Iraq

European newspapers on Friday were concerned with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's testimony to the Hutton Inquiry and the latest developments in Iraq.

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under increasing fire for his handling of the Kelly affair.

Britain’s The Independent said “Prime Minister Blair’s much anticipated appearance before the Hutton Inquiry into the death of weapons expert David Kelly was both highly professional and profoundly unsatisfactory.” He came and

left as the PM who accepted responsibility for his decisions. However the paper wrote, “that responsibility was neither complete nor unconditional.” Most noteworthy, Blair couldn’t or wouldn’t clarify the role of his own press office in dropping clues about the identity of Dr Kelly. The paper thinks his most arresting statement was if the BBC report was true, he would have to resign. The Independent sees that as a last ditch effort to dispel the charge his government “sexed up” the threat from Iraq – an allegation the public evidently believes.

Blair tried with all his cleverness to prove that he didn’t manipulate the dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction wrote Madrid’s El Mundo. It said though that Blair’s threat to resign if the allegations proved true are absurd because the fact he’s still in office shows he thinks he’s innocent. But, the paper pointed out, it’s still something that he’s prepared to put his job on the line over this issue.

Le Monde in Paris commented on Washington’s latest call for more international help in rebuilding Iraq. But the paper thinks the U.S. has weakened its position by limiting the humanitarian role of the UN and Washington’s insistence that it stay in charge. Le Monde said it’s obvious the Bush administration doesn’t regard the United Nations as the sole international legitimizing body. But the paper wrote, President George Bush hasn’t made it clear to Americans that rebuilding Iraq will take a long time. He also hasn’t told them that a multi-national force needed for the long haul will only be possible with a new UN mandate.

Britain’s The Guardian quoted a monitor in Baghdad: “Relief workers are increasingly filling sandbags instead of gaps in humanitarian aid projects.” The paper said the reason Oxfam withdrew its staff and the International

Committee of the Red Cross pulled out most of its workers isn’t directly because of last week’s bombing of the UN headquarters. It’s because foreigners are being increasingly attacked throughout the country. The Guardian believes the problem won’t be solved with more military personal and wrote, the key issue is sovereignty rather than security.