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European Press Review: Blair in Basra

On Monday, newspapers across Europe weigh in on Tony Blair’s visit to Iraq, Afghanistan’s new constitution and peace talks between India and Pakistan.

In Britain, the Independent wrote that Blair is trying to win last year’s argument rather than look ahead. The paper stated that the timing of the prime minister’s visit, just days before the Hutton report is likely to reignite the argument over the justification for the war "smacks of media manipulation." The editors continued that it makes Blair seem more intent on scoring political points about the past than on building on common ground for the future. The paper went on to suggest that a more effective approach would have been a show of humility and an invitation to those who opposed the war to unite behind the common objective of helping the Iraqis take control of their own destiny.

Also in Britain, the Guardian wrote that, while that the Iraq war was a success in purely military terms, Blair still refuses to fact up to the central contention of his numerous opponents that he led Britain into war on a flawed premise. The paper’s editors wrote that the official justification that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to the region and to Britain was just plain wrong.

London’s Financial Times commented that the Hutton report is likely to absolve the prime minister of personal blame, but it will still serve as a reminder of the contentious use of intelligence to justify a war to rid Iraq of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera opined that the battle in Iraq is only part of a more comprehensive conflict in which Osama Bin Laden is a key player. The Italian paper wrote that ,since Sept. 11, 2001, Osama has been trying to lead the Arabs into a world-wide collision through his rebellion. The paper wrote that he is sowing hate and harvesting the force of terror – all the time building what could become a political movement with himself as its prophetic leader.

Other major papers in Europe also weighed in on the new constitution approved by Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, over the weekend.

Spain’s El Mundo newspaper wrote that Afghanistan’s new constitution paves the way for the country to hold elections next year. The paper noted that under country’s new constitution, Afghanistan will become an Islamic republic, which means that laws contradicting the principles of Islam and its customs will not be introduced. The editors poignantly opined that this issue would raise some important questions and many fears. Only the future can show, the paper concluded, whether the Afghan people will decide on a reasonable or intolerant version of Islam.

Meanwhile, Belgium’s De Morgen looked at the talks between Pakistan and India. It wrote that peace between the two countries is a likely solution for the Kashmir conflict. De Morgen stated that the two countries seemed to have moved closer together on the issue since the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, dropped his demand that the United Nation’s organize a referendum on self-determination for the area.