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Europe

European Press Review: Blair's Half Excuse for Iraq

European editorials on Wednesday looked at the release of the Italian hostages in Iraq and commented on Tony Blair's speech at the Labor Party conference.

As Italians rejoiced over the release of two young women aid workers abducted in Iraq, Il Messaggero asked whether it made sense for Italy to keep its troops in the Iraqi morass. The paper said all those concerned should focus their energies on helping Iraq move toward democracy and self-determination.

Corriere della Sera argued that Italy mastered the challenge of getting the hostages released without damaging its Iraq policy. National unity among politicians enabled government representatives to better negotiate with the abductors and most likely pay a ransom for the two young women. There are no "good" abductors in Iraq who are generous to Italians and merciless to Americans, the paper concluded.

Iraq also figured largely at the conference of the Labor Party of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom The Times described as being under a lot of pressure. Blair had indirectly admitted, the paper said, that doubts about his political survival still persist.

The Financial Times argued that although in his speech Blair highlighted his differences with President Bush in an attempt to reassure activists that his support for US policy is not unconditional, he remains trapped by his alliance with the US president.

De Standaard in Belgium thought Blair’s chances of winning the next British election are good. But it feared that many party members will support him only reluctantly because they still hold his war policy on the side of arch conservative Bush against him.

The Dutch paper de Volkskrant found Blair to be no more than an ordinary party politician who by his own admission is not infallible. There were no evangelic messages, no messianic mission and no visionary observation in his speech, just an election program and half an excuse for the Iraq war.

In Denmark, Politiken said Blair is best for Britain and Europe, because in the continuing differences between the US and important European countries, he can keep the cross-Atlantic connection open. The paper saw Blair’s conservative rivals taking a nationalistic and xenophobic stance reminiscent of the worst years under Margaret Thatcher.